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Airbus wins 1.5-bn-euro helicopter deal in S Korea

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A KAI photo.

SEOUL (AFP): Airbus Helicopters Monday inked a deal worth 1.5 billion euros to build more than 300 civil and military choppers in South Korea in partnership with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI).

"This contract of exceptional size is for the development and construction of 214 military attack helicopters and around 100 civilian aircraft," said Norbert Ducrot, vice-president for Airbus Helicopters in northern Asia.

"The development and production contract is worth 1.5 billion euros to Airbus Helicopters over 20 years," he explained.

The firm was in competition with Italian-British group AgustaWestland for the contract to help replace South Korea's ageing fleet of military helicopters and the deal gives Airbus Helicopters an important foothold in a strategically vital market.

In 2005, Airbus Helicopters won a similar contract for military choppers in South Korea, also in partnership with KAI.

The South Korean market for civilian helicopters is seen as ripe for development and the country has "more than 700 helicopters in its military fleet that mainly consist of ageing American" machines that need updating, Ducrot said.

The first deliveries are expected in 2021 for the civilian helicopters (LCH or Light Civil Helicopter) and the year after for the military aircraft (LAH or Light Armed Helicopter).

Airbus estimates the global market for these classes of helicopters at around 600 aircraft "which could mean several billion euros for Airbus Helicopters over the next 20 years if you add support and maintenance services," said Ducrot.

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