Kazakhstan's military helicopter industry ready to take off
When it was reported earlier this week that Kazakhstan was getting six more Huey helicopters from the U.S., it turns out that was just the tip of the iceberg. Astana has signed an agreement with Eurocopter (a division of European aerospace giant EADS) to produce helicopters in Kazakhstan, and Kazakhstan's ministry of defense will buy 45 of them. According to a press release from Eurocopter:
The Eurocopter/Kazakhstan Engineering joint venture calls for the assembly and customisation of EC145s in Astana, Kazakhstan. This organisation will be formally established by December of this year, allowing completion of the first in-country helicopters – to be called the KH145 – by late 2011. According to the MOU, the 45 KH145s acquired by Kazakhstan will be assembled during a six-year period, with an initial batch of six helicopters to be delivered next year.
The agreement also includes establishing maintenance and training operations to cover all of Central Asia, Russia and Belarus.
The EC-145 will also be in service with the U.S., called the UH-72 Lakota, and is intended to replace the Hueys of the type that Kazakhstan just got.
In addition, Kazakhstan also this week signed a similar agreement with Sagem, another European defense company. The announcement doesn't provide too many details, but Sagem makes several types of UAVs now, so we'll have to see what kind they'll make in Kazakhstan.
The helicopter deal, in particular, could be big -- it's no small matter to manufacture a defense helicopter. At this summer's KADEX defense expo in Astana, the government was very explicit about its strategy, which was to lure foreign defense companies to set up joint ventures with Kazakhstan defense industries, so that the local companies can gain expertise and technology to eventually build a serious defense industry of their own. These deals suggest that strategy is bearing fruit, quickly.