Monday, April 2, 2012
Argentina gets Chinese license for production of Z-11 light helicopter
A good deal of arm export for China.
Officials from Fabrica Argentina de Aviones (FAdeA) say they hope to fly their first locally assembled Z-11 light helicopter at the end of this year.
The plans follow a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed with Chinese helicopter company Avicopter and its parent CATIC in October 2011 to assemble the Z-11 light helicopter for both the Argentine and the Latin American market.
Emilio Maligno, business development manager for FAdeA told Shephard that studies had shown a need for a helicopter of Z-11 size in the region for a range of roles in the military and civil markets.
'In Argentina, the government wants to standardise the helicopters which serve the various services such as the gendarmerie, the army and the air force,' said Maligno.
'Helicopters are in high demand in this part of the world. Just take big events like the Dakar rally, helicopters are used in the filming, for moving people and equipment.'
The first Argentine-produced aircraft would be a prototype and demonstrator assembled with Chinese components, but later aircraft would be likely to feature a greater level of Argentine content as locally produced components and equipment come on stream.
'We have some experience in design and customisation, our aim is to produce a helicopter more suited to our Argentine and South American customers.'
Maligno says he hopes to be able to offer customers a choice of three engines, one from China, one from Honeywell, the LTS101 and Turbomeca's Arriel engine. He also hopes to be able to offer new avionics fits to meet customer requirements.
FAdeA says the experience from the assembly and work on the Z-11 could also pave the way for a wholly-indigenous helicopter programme, but there were no plans for the assembly of other Chinese helicopter types.
For the Argentina armed forces, local production would mean that they could have a reliable source of parts and support for the aircraft. Currently each of the armed services operates helicopter types from many different OEMs including Bell, Eurocopter and Russian Helicopters.
The Argentine Army evaluated the Z-11 when it was searching for a new light helicopter back in 2006, but the results of the evaluation are not clear.
The signature of the MoU has caused some consternation at Eurocopter as the Z-11s introduction into the South American may have broken a previously undisclosed agreement made between Eurocopter and Avicopter in early 2011 about the sale of licence-built Eurocopter helicopters by Avicopter outside China.
The Z-11 is not a licence-built Eurocopter aircraft but is virtually identical to the AS350 Ecureuil and Eurocopter is understood to be concerned about protection from liabilities because the designs are so similar.
'The two aircraft look very similar,' said Maligno.
'For us this is not about producing a cheaper aircraft, but a different product that is more customised for the Latin American and Argentine market.'
Currently FAdeA working on several fixed-wing aircraft programmes including the IA-63 Pampa jet trainer and the PA-25 Puelche light aircraft.
Meanwhile, it is understood that Bolivia has ordered six Avicopter H425 helicopters. The H425, also known as the Z-9 in China, is a licence-built version of the Eurocopter Dauphin. The six aircraft will be first helicopters to fly with the Bolivian Army and first Chinese military helicopters to be delivered to a South American customer.