Eurocopter CEO Expects German Tiger Buy to Exceed 40

Eurocopter CEO Expects German Tiger Buy to Exceed 40

Eurocopter expects to deliver 55 to 70 Tigers to Germany, despite the Defense Ministry’s plan to halve its order for the attack helicopters to 40, CEO Lutz Bertling said Jan. 24 during the company’s annual New Year’s news conference here.

The German Defense Ministry has said it wants to slash its Tiger buy to 40 from 80, and cut an order for NH90 transport helicopters to 80 from 122, in a bid to shift funds to new requirements and priorities.

France and Germany launched in the 1980s the Tiger armored combat helicopter program, intended to defend Europe against Soviet tank divisions rolling over the northern plains

Eurocopter has had the first two meetings with Berlin authorities about the planned Tiger reduction, leaving Bertling predicting, “We won’t stop production at 40.”

Talks on the Tiger and NH90 cuts could take three to six months
, he said.

Bertling later explained he expected the German Defense Ministry to place Tigers in organizations such as research and test establishments, beyond the 40 units for the Army.

Total Tiger deliveries to Germany could be “somewhere in the 55 to 70 range,” Bertling said.

The German authorities also wanted a new schedule to stretch out deliveries to ease financial strain on the budget, Bertling said. Talks have not started on a new timetable.

Eurocopter has delivered 22 Tigers to the German Army, he said. The 23rd is due for delivery in August and would be upgraded to the Asgard configuration, suitable for combat in the hot and high conditions of Afghanistan, he said.

The Asgard model will have the “highest operational capability,” Bertling said.

Germany wanted a first batch of four Tiger Asgard copters to be deployed in Afghanistan in October, in time to be operational by the end of the year, he said. They would operate alongside NH90 medevac units.

The German helicopters would be needed if the U.S. Army redeploys its Apaches and Black Hawks in Afghanistan.

Future deliveries of the German Tiger would be in the Asgard version, and some existing helicopters could be upgraded, while some of the basic step 1 and 2 versions could be resold on export markets, Bertling said.

Talks on cuts in the NH90 order were not so advanced, Bertling said.

Penalties on late deliveries of the NH90 were expected to be part of the overall agreement, he said.

The German government is not reducing the military budget but wants “to regain the freedom to invest,” Bertling said.

Eurocopter was negotiating in a “constructive dialog,” and the net impact would be a change in profile and operational capability, he said.

Elsewhere, Eurocopter has a campaign in Turkey. Bertling declined to give details of the campaign.

Relations between France and Turkey have slumped after the French Senate ratified Jan. 23 a bill that makes it a crime to deny genocides, including the 1915 massacre of Armenians in Turkey.

The Senate vote “was not too helpful,” but Eurocopter was not just a French company, Bertling said.

Nationality was reportedly a factor weighing on whether Bertling would continue to head Eurocopter.

The French government reportedly wants to replace Bertling, a German national, with a French executive when Louis Gallois retires as chief executive of parent company EADS. Tom Enders, a German and current head of Airbus, is reported to be lined up to succeed Gallois.

Bertling said he expected to be in the same job this time next year, but it was up to the shareholders to decide.

Privately, Eurocopter executives say it would make sense to leave Bertling in place for another couple of years to see through the programs underway.

Bertling is often seen at official events here, underlining the strong Franco-German ties at Eurocopter.

Eurocopter’s headquarters is in Marignane, southern France, and it also has a German headquarters at Donauworth. The company is a subsidiary of EADS, jointly owned by French, German and Spanish core shareholders.

Eurocopter’s sales for 2011 jumped 12 percent to 5.4 billion euros from 4.8 billion a year ago, helped by six months’ contribution from Vector Aerospace, acquired last year. On a like-for-like basis, the rise was around 7 percent to 7.5 percent, in line with average annual sales growth.

New orders rose to 4.7 billion euros, based on 457 net bookings, compared to 346 units. Cancellations totaled 15, and the company expects a similar number in 2012.

Eurocopter expects deliveries in 2012 to return to around 588 or 600, the pre-financial crisis level.

On the overall military market, Eurocopter’s 2011 orders were 32 percent against 68 percent for civil, marking an extraordinarily calm market, Bertling said. There were few sales campaigns, especially in Europe, because of tight budgets.

Western Europe was seen as a low-growth military market in a five-year forecast, with Africa/Middle East, Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America regarded as high-growth. North America was seen as medium growth,

The world military market was expected to peak at 18.2 billion euros in 2015 under the current cycle of fleet renewal, and then fall to be about equal in size with civil, around 6.5 billion euros compared with 7 billion, in 2025.

Source: By Pierre Tran, PARIS, 24 January 2012 - DefenceNews (www.defensenews.com)

Photo: German Eurocopter Tiger demo helicopter F-ZKBS (Photo by flightglobal.com)



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