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01 Jul 06. Eurocopter, a subsidiary of the aerospace group EADS, announced Saturday it has won a contract worth a potential $3bn to supply up to 352 helicopters to the US army over ten years.

“We are extremely proud that our helicopter has been selected for the US Army’s requirement. After decades of delivering to the US government and commerical operators, this is our first entry into the US military market,” Fabrice Bregier, president and CEO of Eurocopter said in a statement.

He added that in terms of numbers, the award was “the single largest order for one aircraft type booked by Eurocopter to date.”

The contract was announced on the DoD website.

EADS North American Defense of Arlington, Va., was awarded June 30, 2006, a $43.1 million firm-fixed-price, fixed-price-level-of-effort, cost-reimbursable contract for the Light Utility Helicopter with MEDVAC B and hoist B kits along with pilot transition and maintainer training. Work will be peformed in Columbus, Miss., and is expected to be completed by June 30, 2016. The Light Utility Helicopter is designed to conduct light-general support, civil search and rescue, personnel recovery, air ambulance medical evacuation, casualty evacuation, limited civil command and control operations in the conduct of homeland security, and counter-drug operations. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Bids were solicited July 26, 2005, and five bids were received. The Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity. For more information, call the program executive office, aviation, public affairs office at (256) 842-0561 (W58RGZ-06-C-0194).

Eads said that the contract is for the eventual supply of up to 352 UH-145 light utility helicopters, initially 332, with an option to extend to 352,” a spokesman at Eurocopter’s headquarters in Marignane, northwest of Marseille, told AFP.

The award of the contract will entail the creation of 200 jobs at Eurocopter’s Columbus facility in Mississippi, which is to undergo a major expansion to accommodate the program. Production of the UH-145 will gradually be transferred to Columbus, starting with partial assembly, followed by full assembly and subsequent US manufacture of major subsystems.

The first US-145 will be delivered to the US army in November.

For the program Eurocopter has allied itself with Sikorsky Aircraft, which will be responsible for logistical support, and Westwind Technologies for systems integration and CAE USA of Tampa, Florida, to supply cockpit trainers.

Eurocopter has supplied helicopters in the past to several US federal agencies, notably the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and Coast Guard, but not until now to the US army.

In June 2005 Eurocopter cited “technical reasons” for deciding not to tender for two other US army contracts for armed reconnaissance helicopters and units to be used to rescue soldiers.

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