Moscow-based newspaper Vedomosti is today saying that Russia is preparing to order over 100 Eurocopter AS350 and AS355 helicopters to train military pilots. The initial phase is a public procurement notice filed on Friday 17th February for 15 single- and 30 twin-engined helicopters, but with pricing to be based on an eventual order for over 100 airfcraft.
Defence officials have reportedly intimated that production of these helicopters would be made by "Heliprom-Petersburg", a joint venture company between Eurocopter and local company Rosoboronexport. It would also be a first bulk order of foreign-design helicopters for the Russian military, who up to now have only had a handful of helicopters made outside the country - German-built Eurocopter models including Bo105, BK117 and EC145 for the Emergency Ministry.
The move is seen as a snub to the Mil Mi-34, which is going through an upgrade but the new model has not yet been certified. This lack of type approval has been cited as one reason to go for the Eurocopter option. The Ka226 could also be an outside contender but was rejected on cost grounds.
Nikolai Vanesev - HeliHub.com Moscow correspondent
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