EADS to Co-develop EC175 Helicopter With China
EADS Eurocopter has signed a cooperation agreement covering the development of a new 16-seat EC175 helicopter, following a year of intense negotiations to detail and develop the general principles laid down in the Agreement signed in October 2004 during President Chirac’s official visit to China. The five-year development phase will be kicked off early in 2006. The new ‘civil’ helicopter is due to make its first flight in 2009, with European and Chinese certification set for 2011, the year in which production is due to start.
The forecasts for the new machine are ambitious.
The EC175 to be developed by Eurocopter and Chinese firm AVIC II will feature the very latest technological advances in the cockpit and avionics, along with a 5-bladed main rotor that uses the same Spheriflex technology as the EC120 and a high energy absorbing airframe. The EC175 will be certified for two-pilot IFR and single-pilot VFR operations when carrying up to 16 passengers, with a radius of action of 200 nautical miles at a speed of 280 km/h.
Eurocopter and AVIC II will each invest EUR 300 million to develop the new EC175 helicopter. Production will be shared on a 50/50 basis, and each country will have its own assembly line. Sales forecasts for this latest-generation helicopter call for 800 to be sold worldwide over the next 20 years.
Eurocopter President Fabrice Bregie believes that this program guarantees more than 30 years of activity and the creation of 2,000 high tech jobs for Eurocopter and the company’s partners. Over 20 years, he estimates that the program will be worth close to EUR 10 billion.
The EC175 project follows in the footsteps of the past programs, which spawned increasingly tight cooperative ties between Chinese industry and Eurocopter. The licensed production of the Dauphin in 1980 (in service with China’s military as the Z-9), followed by the industrial cooperation on the light EC120 in 1992 (which EADS lists on its web site as civil/military), has paved the way to this more ambitious co-development program. More than 500 EC120s have been sold throughout the world, and EADS says that it’s currently the best seller in its category. An assembly line was inaugurated in 2004 in the Harbin, China plant to satisfy the needs of the growing (by 10-15% annually) Chinese domestic market.
Eurocopter said that it holds a 45% share in the Chinese civil and government/ security helicopter sector, and Eurocopter Vice-President for Asia Mr. Norbert Ducrot estimates that China will need about 300 helicopters before 2015 in light of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and the 2010 Universal Exhibition in Shanghai.