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Saturday, September 1, 2012

AgustaWestland’s Spagnolini Bonds with Russian Helicopters as the Bear Looks Over His Shoulder

By Andrew Drwiega, Military Editor

AgustaWestland has a “deal with Russian Helicopters to develop a new technology 2.5-ton single engine helicopter for the export and internal markets,” said CEO Bruno Spagnolini, speaking on the second day of the Farnborough Airshow in the UK.

“This is a great opportunity to expand the cooperation that we already have with Russian Helicopters where we have established a joint venture for the final assembly of the commercial AW139 in Moscow.” The new aircraft is likely to be assembled at the HeliVert facility which was established to assemble the AW139 for the Russian market.

This move is part of a larger plan to move its business to go where the markets are becoming strongest: “We are trying to grow our network of cooperation worldwide. We are trying to move our presence where the market is and there are opportunities to cooperate.”

However, before Spagnolini even spoke, the ever-slicker presentation from Russian Helicopters a couple of hours earlier had talked about boosting their own helicopter annual production to previously unheard of levels. Russian helicopters are already reputed to form 14 percent of the global fleet broken down into a 22 percent share of military rotorcraft but only 9 percent of civilian helicopters. The latest version of the world recognized Mi-8/17, the Mi-171A2, will hit the markets in 2014 after its expected EASA certification. And the following year several additional projects are likely to have been announced. The Russian industry has also recognized its previous weakness in worldwide support centers and claims to be in the process of putting that right.

“We have been traditionally strong in defense and weaker in the civil market,” said one Russian commentator. “We are putting our priorities now into the consolidation of S&T and R&D.”

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