EADS North America sees the technology used in its hybrid X3 concept helicopter as a way to broaden its reach in the U.S. military market, according to company officials.
The X3 (pronounced X-cubed) — a long-range, hybrid helicopter — made its debut in the Washington area this week, flying an air show routine for reporters, diplomats and company employees at a regional airport in Manassas, Va. The aircraft uses a top-mounted, five-bladed rotor and two side-mounted propellers. The twin-aircraft-style tail has no rotor.
The technology used on the aircraft is scalable, meaning it could be used in small and large airframes, EADS officials said.
American Eurocopter, a subsidiary of EADS, has been showing the X3 off in the United States this week. It is expected to fly to the Pentagon later this week before being broken down and shipped in a cargo plane back to an EADS facility in France.
This type of helicopter technology “is part of the overall strategy in the military,” Marc Paganini, CEO of American Eurocopter, said during a July 23 briefing with reporters.
EADS has been trying to break into the U.S. military market for years. The company, which builds the UH-72 Lakota for the Army in Mississippi, had hoped to supply an Airbus A330-based tanker for a $35 billion U.S. Air Force aerial refueling aircraft competition. That contest was won by Boeing.
Still, EADS sees potential for expansion in the United States for both military and commercial systems. Earlier this month, the company announced plans to open a commercial Airbus A320 assembly line in Mobile, Ala. EADS had previously planned to build Air Force tankers in Mobile.
EADS hopes the X3 could add to that portfolio.
“From what we have seen, flying the aircraft … and the reaction of the customer, it looks like the market likes [it],” Paganini said. “Now we will see which aircraft we will derive from this.”
EADS officials believe the X3 technology can meet the Pentagon’s future helicopter needs.