Wednesday, February 17, 2010

AgustaWestland Links Up With Tata Sons For AW119 Helicopters


Aerospace Daily & Defense Report Feb 17 , 2010 , p. 02
Neelam Mathews

NEW DELHI — AgustaWestland and Tata Sons have signed a Shareholders Agreement for the formation of an Indian joint venture company to build a final assembly line in Hyderabad in South India for the AW119 helicopter.

The agreement was signed here by Giuseppe Orsi, CEO of AgustaWestland, and Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Sons. The joint venture company will be responsible for AW119 final assembly, completion and delivery, while AgustaWestland will retain responsibility for worldwide marketing and sales.

With an initial international order of 50-60 helicopters, the joint venture will roll out the first aircraft from its Indian plant in 2011. The plant will initially have the capacity to produce 30 helicopters annually.

AgustaWestland, which also has a facility in Philadelphia, says it will continue looking for its facility in India to grow. “As the market grows, we will look at other models,” Graham Cole, managing director of Westland Helicopters, told Aerospace DAILY here.

AgustaWestland pitched its AW119 at the end of last year for India’s program for 197 Reconnaissance and Surveillance Helicopters (RSHs) for the Indian Armed Forces, for which field trials are currently on. Eurocopter and Kamov also are in the running.

It is envisaged that the joint venture company also would be the commercial base for the AW119 and for the RSH program, if AgustaWestland were to win it, according to Fillippo Bagnato, executive vice president of Finmeccanica. Additionally, AgustaWestland and Tata Sons are exploring further commercial, technical and industrial collaboration opportunities in the rotorcraft industry to strengthen their strategic relationship.

“Establishing an AW119 final assembly line in India will allow us to meet the growing demand in the world market for a modern single engine helicopter and to further expand our presence in India, where we see strong future business opportunities,” Orsi said.

Meanwhile, AgustaWestland is awaiting the signing of the contract for 12 EH/AW-101 VIP helicopters to replace aging Russian Mi-8s and Mi-17s being operated by the Indian Air Force for VIP and utility/assault missions.

It is believed that the government would like to sign the contract before its financial year ends on March 31. A clue that the contract was close to signing was given by Indian defense minister A.K. Antony at the DefExpo here when he said: “Indian Air Force and Special Protection Group repeatedly told us that the helicopters were required because of the changing security scenario ... The finance ministry also agreed later. The Cabinet Committee on Security then took a considered decision [on AW 119].”

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