ITAJUBA, Brazil, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Eurocopter is deepening its footprint in Latin America with its Brazilian subsidiary opening a new manufacturing facility and center of excellence.
The facility of Helibras, which will produce EC725 helicopters for the Brazilian military, is in Minas Gerais state. In addition to manufacturing the EC725, Helibras will build the civilian version EC225 at the center for use in offshore and other operations in Brazil.
"The Itajuba plant represents our latest milestone in a relationship spanning more than 30 years with Brazil and underscores Eurocopter's commitment of being in proximity to its customers while in-sourcing high-value business in key markets," said Eurocopter President and Chief Executive Officer Lutz Bertling.
The EC725 Super Cougar is a twin-engine, long-range aircraft used for troop transport, casualty evacuation and combat search-and-rescue operations. It can carry 28 troops or more than 12,500 pounds of payload.
Eurocopter, which has headquarters in France, said the helicopter has a cruise speed of 171 miles per hour, a range of 533 miles and a service ceiling of nearly 20,000 feet.
Five countries operate the helicopter and the Brazilian military is acquiring 50 EC725s, which it calls the Caracal, under a contract signed in 2008. Under that contract, half of the Caracal's components will be produced by Brazilian companies.
Eurocopter and Helibras said the new center is part of the deal with the Brazilian Ministry of Defense and will create "the framework for potential future helicopter development in the country, along with the evolution of its aviation industry supply chain."
About $207 million has been invested in the facility by Eurocopter. The sum includes the organization and operation of related training programs for personnel as well as construction.
"This program meets the Brazilian government's goals of acquiring mission-capable, customized helicopters for its armed forces while bringing in valuable expertise for the country's aeronautical industry and the supply chain," said Helibras President Eduardo Marson Ferreira.
Brazil has received four of the EC725s ordered. They underwent initial assembly in France and are on the new facility's final assembly line. One of the helicopters will be used as the development and systems integration aircraft for utility and naval mission systems.
In a related development, Helibras has contracted InbraAerospace to supply composite armor protection for the EC725, bringing the number of Brazilian companies supplying components for the aircraft to 15.
"This new selection builds on our relationship with InbraAerospace which already produces armor for Ecureuil helicopters," said Helibras Vice President Eduardo Mauad. "It also opens future business opportunities for Inbra with Helibras and its Eurocopter parent company."
InbraAerospace is a business unit of Grupo Inbrafiltro.
Other Brazilian companies contracted for the EC725 include Toyo Matic Aerospace; Aernnova do Brasil; Turbomeca do Brasil; Sagem/TM; Rohde and Schwarz do Brasil; AEL Aeroeletrônica; Microturbo/TM; and SDV Brasil; AKAER; RCS; GNS; UNISTIL; MASTER; ITAKAR; and IFAM.
Among the components that are being manufactured locally are rotor head sleeves; for metal tailbooms; engines; autopilot systems; radios; auxiliary power units; and cockpit instrumentation.