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Airbus earmarks Wales for NMH build, eyes ‘jewel in the crown' of NGRC production

Airbus is pitching a military version of the civil H175 (pictured) to the UK for the country's New Medium Helicopter requirement. If successful, the company would establish an assembly line at Broughton in Wales. (Airbus)

Airbus has chosen Broughton in Wales as the site for building its New Medium Helicopter (NMH) offering to the United Kingdom, describing its selection as a bridge to the “jewel in the crown” of the future NATO Next-Generation Rotorcraft Capability (NGRC).

Speaking to reporters in London on 10 September, managing director of Airbus Helicopters UK, Colin James, said the Broughton site that manufactures wings for all Airbus commercial aircraft has been identified as the preferred location for production of the H175M platform. The company is bidding this type for the NMH competition to replace the Royal Air Force's fleet of Westland-Aerospatiale SA 330E Puma HC2s helicopters (for which Airbus is now the prime contractor), and three other types.

In identifying Wales as a location for helicopter production, James said that the UK needs to maintain Airbus Helicopters' industrial capabilities to stand the best chance of securing the most work on the potentially much more lucrative NGRC programme.

“We have identified Broughton in Wales as the best industrial location for production. This is a first for helicopters to benefit from the wider production knowledge of the wider Airbus family,” James said, adding that this final assembly line would maximise the company's extensive UK supply chain. “However, the ‘jewel in the crown' is not NMH but NGRC, [and] if the UK wants a helicopter industry then it needs to invest now in Airbus infrastructure to NMH and to secure NGRC participation.”

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