ITAJUBA, BRAZIL — Helibras, the Brazilian subsidiary of European manufacturer Eurocopter, on Tuesday inaugurated a new plant in the southern state of Minas Gerais that will assemble 50 EC725 military helicopters for the armed forces by 2017.
A company statement said the choppers will have 50 percent Brazilian content with the other 50 percent made in France.
The new facility in Itajuba will also assemble the EC225, the civilian version of the EC725, which will be used for airlift between the continent and offshore oil rigs, it added.
The total investment for the project is $210 million.
In 2008, the consortium Helibras-Eurocopter won a $2.4 billion contract to build in Brazil 50 long-range multi-purpose helicopters with 50 percent domestic content for the army, the navy and the air force.
“This is a program that will assist the national and local industries while benefiting a major supply chain,” said Eduardo Marson Ferreira, Helibras president.
Four EC725 choppers made in Eurocopter’s French plant have already been delivered, three in December 2010 and one last July.
Eurocopter President Lutz Bertling, who attended the inauguration, said the idea was to enable Helibras to produce the first 100 percent Brazilian-made helicopter in 2025.
“The aircraft will be available on the world market in the middle of the 2020’s. I am prepared to discuss with President Dilma Rousseff and Defense Minister Celso Amorim the best way to reach our objective,” Bertling told Tuesday’s O Estado de Sao Paulo.
Helibras is a partner of Eurocopter, the world’s leading supplier of choppers, which has EADS as parent company.
The Itajuba plant employs more than 700 people and has a production capacity of 36 helicopters per year.
Helibras has already delivered more than 600 choppers in Brazil, 70 percent of them AS350 Squirrels.
Brazil, a huge country with the world’s sixth largest economy, plans to modernize its air force to protect its long borders and huge offshore oil reserves as well as to ensure the security of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Rio summer Olympics.