Helicopter capability - Defence Committee Contents

Memorandum from Eurocopter


  1.  Eurocopter Group (ECG), a wholly owned subsidiary of European Aeronautics, Defence and Space Company (EADS), is the world's largest manufacturer of helicopters. It was formed in 1992 by the merger of Aerospatiale Helicopt€res of France and MBB of Germany: in 2006 a third "home" country, Eurocopter España, joined the Group. On a historical note, in 1965 the United Kingdom and France signed a MOU, jointly to develop between Westland and Aerospatiale, the Puma, Lynx and Gazelle family of helicopters, arguably the most successful European collaborative venture of recent years, as all three types are all still in service with the UK, France and many other nations.

  2.  In 2008, ECG delivered 588, and took orders for 715 helicopters from both military and commercial customers, in roughly equal proportions: this military/civil mix provides a sound foundation to the Group's business model. Revenues were €4.5 billion, having risen steadily from €2.6 billion in 2003. The Group's design and manufacturing capability is complemented by a major support and services operation, accounting for over one third of turnover. In military sales it shares the world market with other European, American and Russian manufacturers, but it consistently dominates the civil and "parapublic" (police and emergency services) markets with over 50% of world sales.

  3.  With a workforce of 14,000, the Group's headquarters and principal manufacturing facility is at Marignagne, near Marseille, where it is led by a German Chief Executive Officer, Dr Lutz Bertling. Development and production are also conducted at sites in Donauwörth, near Munich, at Albacete in Spain, and at of other sites including major production facilities in the USA and Australia.

  4.  Eurocopter's product range covers the full range of single and multi-engine helicopters and includes the EC225/725 Super Puma/Cougar, NH90 and Tiger, AS365 Dauphin, the EC145 and 135 family, EC120 Colibri and AS350 Squirrel; variants of all types are used by both military and commercial customers. There are currently over 10,000 ECG helicopters flying around the world with over 2,500 customers, covering the full range from major defence and oil-and-gas fleets through to private owners. The Group has 20 subsidiaries around the world, with a particularly strong presence in Europe, North America and South East Asia; with markets outside France, Germany and Spain generating over 50% of turnover.

  5.  The support and services operations complement the design, development and manufacturing activities by offering customisation/completion, maintenance, repair and overhaul, retrofits and upgrades, technical support, flight testing, certification, training and logistics. Sales and support in the defence sector is a critical feature of our operations globally, and Eurocopter products are flown by the Armed Forces of many nations, including most NATO nations.


  6.  The UK is a very important market for Eurocopter, with over 400 of our civil and military helicopters in service here.

  7.  In the defence sector, Pumas are flown by the Royal Air Force and based at RAF Benson and RAF Aldergrove; the current fleet comprises 44 aircraft. Approximately 40 Gazelles remain in service with the Army Air Corps in 5 Regt AAC and other units. The last component of the current defence fleet is the AS350 Squirrel, 38 of which are in operation at the Defence Helicopter Flying School.

  8.  Within the UK commercial and parapublic fleets, 42% are EC aircraft, while in the combined UK/Ireland market, Eurocopter accounts for over 50% of corporate/VIP helicopters, with 75% of the Emergency Medical Services sector and 80% of the UK's Police forces.

  9.  The importance of the United Kingdom to Eurocopter was demonstrated most clearly by its acquisition in December 2007 of McAlpine Helicopters Ltd (MHL), ECG having previously held a minority share in the company. MHL had been EC's UK and Ireland distributor since 1977. EC UK has 200 employees and its strategy is to grow, particularly in the defence sector, with a specific aim to create a National Support Centre for all marks of Puma. Turnover has increased steadily, reaching £78 million in 2008.

  10.  Eurocopter has operations throughout the UK and Ireland. With the highest concentration of skilled engineers, EC's Oxford HQ is its UK Technology Hub. A team near Bristol handles the Puma Life Extension Programme (LEP). Personnel are also detached to RAF Benson, and to Bedford, Belfast and Newcastle, with additional sites at Hawarden and Dublin. A major investment at Aberdeen will start in April this year, to cater for the vital offshore oil and gas market, currently served by some 59 Super Pumas, flying 85,000 hours annually.

  11.  The decision to acquire MHL could in part be traced to the 2005 Defence Industrial Strategy (DIS), which made clear that a UK footprint was a requirement for success in the defence sector. In respect of helicopters, the DIS sought to establish a closer and more transparent relationship with the industrial sector, with particular emphasis on the forging of partnerships, reflecting the sector's well-established position in, and importance to the UK.

  12.  DIS identified several critical capabilities for which sovereign capability should be retained/developed: (i) integration of platforms, powerplant, navigation and communications systems, complex integration of mission systems; sensors and processors; and capacity for modelling and simulation. On mission systems alone, EC UK's dominance of the Police market flows from its development and integration of advanced, bespoke mission systems, of which the recently delivered Metropolitan Police EC145s are the latest example.

  13.  The DIS section on helicopters tended to focus on AgustaWestland, reflecting amongst other things its Design Authority (DA) status in respect of the Lynx and Sea King. Consistent with this, AgustaWestland is the only helicopter manufacturer with which the MoD has to date established a Strategic Partnering Arrangement. However, in view of EC's status as DA on Puma and Gazelle, and its planned role as prime contractor for Puma Life Extension, EC and MoD are jointly developing a Partnering Framework Arrangement.


  14.  EC is engaged with the MoD on two main programmes relating to the Puma fleet, Through Life Support (TLS), and the Puma Life Extension Programme (LEP).

  15.  Last December, EC and MoD signed a TLS contract under which EC provides logistical support for the Puma fleet, providing a wrap-around spares and repair and overhaul service similar to the Integrated Operational Support solutions which are now standard for other MoD helicopter types.

  16.  Puma LEP is in negotiation, and will be EC's most significant programme with MoD for many years. EC is currently conducting the Assessment Phase and is refining the details for the 5-year "Demonstration and Manufacture" (production) phase, for which a contract is expected within weeks.

  17.  LEP is critical because it addresses MoD's most pressing helicopter shortfall, namely for battlefield lift that can operate in support of UK forces in the harshest and most demanding operating environments—notably Afghanistan. LEP will deliver a Puma Mk2 whose performance will exceed most other helicopters, and is the most cost-effective means of meeting MoD's short to medium term helicopter needs. The Mk2 will offer at least 10 years' additional service, and be capable of performing a year-round role in any theatre, in all climatic conditions. Comparable new aircraft would be significantly more costly, and could not be built by the time the current Puma Mk1 reaches its out-of-service date (OSD) in 2012. Lastly, UK-specific elements of LEP such as secure communications will be integrated in the United Kingdom at EC UK, thereby satisfying the DIS criteria for an onshore capability for upgrades and urgent requirements.

  18.  In addition to the Puma programmes, EC UK is supplying additional equipment to the MoD, details of which are being made available separately to the Clerk.


  19.  Eurocopter is confident that its developing relationship with MoD will raise awareness of its potential as a partner on various important programmes planned in the short to medium term.

  20.  On the Search and Rescue Helicopter (SAR (H)) programme, to be contracted jointly by MoD and DfT/Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the EC225, the latest version of the Super Puma family, is the chosen platform for the Air Knight consortium. The military version, the EC 725, will be a strong contender for the forthcoming Future Medium Helicopter Programme.

  21.  ECG already provides most of the helicopters at the Defence Helicopter Flying School, and is participating in the early stages of the Military Flight Training System (Rotary Wing) programme to provide a successor to the DHFS contract.


  22.  Eurocopter strongly believes that the capability demonstrated in this submission—its status as the world's leading helicopter manufacturer, its comprehensive support organisation and aircraft modification capability, underpinned by a growing onshore capability with Eurocopter UK Ltd, confirms its suitability as a partner to HMG and as an alternative supplier of helicopter capability.

3 April 2009

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