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Airbus Helicopters hints at US assembly for H145M with export sales backing
30 JULY, 2018
BY: DOMINIC PERRY BUDAPEST
Airbus Helicopters has again hinted that it could produce the H145M military rotorcraft at its final assembly site in the USA and is lining up support from Washington to promote export sales of US-built examples.
The facility in Columbus, Mississippi already assembles UH-72 Lakotas – based on the earlier EC145 variant of the medium-twin – for the US Army, and the airframer is understood to be keen to standardise global production on the newer model
Mark Henning, H145M programme manager, speaking in Hungary on 27 July, said that situation has been explained to the US Army and "they are listening in an interested manner".
Although the army employs the UH-72 as a training or utility helicopter, Henning believes there is growing interest in re-establishing the service's armed scout capability, lost when its Bell OH-58 Kiowa Warriors were retired in 2016.
At the Singapore air show in February, Christian Fanchini, a marketing executive for Airbus Helicopters' HForce weapons programme, indicated that he believed the US Army could be interested in the H145M for an armed scout requirement.
But whether or not the service eventually selects the H145M, there is the promise of support via the US Foreign Military Sales process if the helicopters are built in Columbus.
"They are going to support us [via] FMS if we produce it in the Mississippi plant. In that context when we get [a] FMS [deal] we can switch production," says Henning, The decision to offer support for the H145M via FMS was made late last year, he notes.
The only previous export sale from Columbus was an order for six Lakotas from the Royal Thai Army in 2014.
Although broadly similar, the newer H145M is significantly more capable than the UH-72. It features uprated Safran Helicopter Engines Arriel 2E powerplants, a fenestron shrouded tail and full glass cockpit. Maximum take-off weight is 3.8t, against 3.5t for the Lakota.
Final assembly of the H145M is currently conducted at Airbus Helicopters' plant in Donauwörth, Germany.