Airbus Sweetens U.K. Chopper Bid With Pledge of Factory in Wales
(Bloomberg) -- Airbus SE upped the ante in its bid to win a helicopter order from Britain’s Royal Air Force, promising to build all military versions of the H175M model it’s pitching at a new plant in the U.K.
The assembly line will be installed next to Airbus’s jetliner wing factory in Broughton, Wales, if it’s selected to replace a fleet of 23 Puma choppers, Colin James, who leads the U.K. helicopter unit, said in an interview Tuesday. He said the site will fulfill all global exports, going beyond earlier pledges.
The offer of hundreds of U.K. jobs at Airbus and its suppliers bolsters the Toulouse, France-based firm in a competition with Leonardo SpA, whose AW149 model would be made at Britain’s only helicopter factory in Yeovil, England.
James, speaking at the DSEI defense-industry expo in London, held out prospects for the rehiring of former Airbus staff at Broughton who lost their jobs as demand for passenger aircraft was hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Airbus said it’s also close to removing all Chinese content for the militarized version of the civilian H175, which the company produces in conjunction with Aviation Industry Corp. of China, to address defense sensitivities. Talks on the British plant have been held with unions in France, where the H175 is made.
Airbus anticipates that the U.K. contract will be awarded by the end of next year, with the helicopters entering production by 2028. Shephard Media reported Sept. 10 that the Black Hawk from Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Sikorsky and Relentless made by Textron Inc.’s Bell are also in the running.
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