June 03, 2013
LONDON — The French government has confirmed it has signed up to purchase the remaining 34 NHIndustries NH90 utility helicopters from a contract signed in 2007.
The government confirmed the €1 billion ($1.3 billion) deal on May 30.
Back in 2007, the French government ordered 68 NH90 Tactical Transport Helicopters (TTH) to replace the French army’s aging fleet of Puma utility helicopters. The order would be delivered in two batches. The government signed off the order for the first 34 and deliveries of the first aircraft have begun.
The government originally had until March 31, 2013, to sign the deal. Eurocopter, who is one of the major partners in the NH90 program and responsible for the production of the aircraft in France, extended the deadline until May 31, but said that no other extensions would be given.
The news will no doubt come as a great relief to the NHIndustries partners, which also include AgustaWestland and Fokker.
The concerns come at a challenging time for the NH90 program, which is now beginning to ramp up to higher production levels. Several European countries are trying to re-negotiate or get out of their contracts altogether. Portugal has made it clear it would like to leave the program, while Germany has re-negotiated new terms. Germany will now buy 100 NH90s rather than the original plan of 122. Eighteen of the 100 will be built as naval variants and the rest will be TTH variants for the army.
While the deal, announced in mid-March, has been agreed to in principle, contracts are yet to be signed.
Spain wants to further reduce the number of aircraft it will buy. Earlier this month, the Spanish defense ministry said it plans to cut the current purchase of 45 down to 22 units, a move that would save €190 million.
A formal announcement of the French order is expected at the Paris air show.