Airbus confident in Broughton’s abilities to build new RAF helicopter as assembly line plans push ahead
Airbus Helicopters is pushing forward with plans to design an assembly line in Broughton for the military version of its H175 helicopter in the event it wins a competition to supply British armed forces.
The company says that there is no need to produce a ‘proof-of-concept’ H175M at its proposed Broughton assembly line as it chases the £1.2 billion Ministry of Defense (MoD), according to a report by industry website Flight Global.
The UK Government launched a competition in May last year for the New Medium Helicopter (NMH) programme which could see up to 44 H175M helicopters purchased from Airbus by the MoD and with it a potential jobs boost for the Broughton plant.
The new helicopters will replace the MoDs fleet of Pumas and other military models, with Airbus’ European rival Leonardo seen as the front-runner.
The Airbus H175M is designed to cover a wide range of typical missions such as Utility/Troop transport, Special Operations, Medical Evacuation, Command Control and Combat SAR, depending on the list of mission optional items the customer selects.
The contract with the MoD also includes five years of support, from the training of new pilots, aircrew and instructors to logistical and service support.
Airbus says it will set up a final assembly line at the Broughton site for the H175M should it be selected as a replacement for the Royal Air Force’s fleet of Puma transports.
Bruno Even, chief executive of Airbus Helicopters, insists there is no need to prove Broughton’s abilities and points to the “competencies” already established at the Flintshire wing-making plant and the company’s “strong industrial footprint” for commercial aircraft.
“The idea and the objective is to leverage all these skills and competencies in order to be in position to produce as quick as possible the H175M in Broughton,” he said during a 25 January media briefing.
He said: “So we can be quick, and we will take the decisions we need in order to be able to deliver the helicopter on time, in line with the customer expectation,” as reported by Flight Global.
The establishment of the new final assembly line would create up to 1,000 jobs in the UK – 400 at Broughton alone – and would build helicopters both for the UK programme and for export.
Design of the assembly line is “progressing”, says Airbus.
“We really believe that the 175 military version will perfectly address all the needs of military customers for troop transportation from beyond the UK – we see a great future for this [helicopter] on the export market.”
Airbus Helicopters faces stiff competition for the MoD contract from rival Leonardo Helicopters.
The company has already established an initial production capability at its plant in Yeovil for the AW149, its candidate for the UK’s New Medium Helicopter (NMH) requirement.
The AW149 is already in operation with the Egyptian Navy, the Royal Thai Army and the Polish Army recently ordered 32 of them.
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