Austria’s rift with Airbus hampers helicopter acquisition

4:59:00 AM



On 21 August, the Austrian Ministry of Defence (MoD) launched a request for information (RFI) to manufacturers for 12 twin-engined light multirole helicopters, with a 26 September deadline. The planned budget for the long-delayed procurement of new helicopters is EUR30–50 million (USD35–59 million).

The RFI was issued to Leonardo for a skid-equipped AW109 ‘Trekker‘, to Bell-Textron for a militarised version of the Bell 429 modified in a similar way to the NorthStar Bell 407MRH for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and to Airbus Helicopters for either the H135M or H145M. The MoD’s air materiel department confirmed to Jane's the requirement for a twin-engined helicopter with full instrument flight rules (IFR) and weaponisation.

Meanwhile, the MoD is considering excluding Airbus Helicopters from bidding early on. On 22 August, Defence Minister Hanspeter Doskozil’s political spokesman, Stefan Hirsch, was quoted in the Austrian media as saying, “It is only normal that we do not want to have any new business relationship with a company with whom we have a legal dispute … and in our view, Airbus cheated us.“

Hirsch was referring to the lawsuit that the MoD and Finance Ministry have brought against Airbus and its chief executive officer, Tom Enders, in February for “fraud and deceit“ in Austria‘s 2002–2007 Eurofighter Typhoon acquisition. The lawsuit, worth up to EUR1.1 million, alleges delayed delivery, exorbitant operating costs, and failure to itemise the costs of the 200% offsets, which have since been fulfilled.

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