Uzbekistan Buying Airbus Military Helicopters, If Germany Doesn't Block Sale
Airbus has a contract to sell military helicopters to Uzbekistan but it is in peril because of a dispute over export regulations between the two main partners, France and Germany.
The deal for the helicopter had not been previously reported, and the information emerged during a conference in Berlin. It seems that Germany has many more reservations about selling weaponry to countries with bad human rights practices than does France. From Bloomberg:
Delivery of 14 Airbus military helicopters to Uzbekistan is being held up after Germany blocked a permit to sell a slip ring needed in the flyer’s optical system, Airbus Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders told executives and reporters in Berlin yesterday. Blocking the sale of a “sub-sub component” is “grotesque,” said Enders, adding that he’s considering shifting helicopter development to France from Germany.
It's not clear what kind of helicopters these would be, and a spokeswoman for Airbus declined to "comment further on... our contract with our customer" in an email to The Bug Pit.
France's willingness to sell military equipment to controversial customers has been highlighted by the deal to sell two Mistral naval vessels to Russia. (That deal is now under doubt as France has said it is "suspending" the sale pending progress on a ceasefire in Ukraine, though Russia says according to them the deal is still on.)
There were lengthy discussions between Uzbekistan and the United States over the possible purchase of Black Hawk helicopters, but last year the State Department finally blocked the deal. The Sikorsky-made Black Hawk is primarily a military transport helicopter but can be armed as well; the closest Airbus equivalent would be an NH-90.
The U.S. has provided some modest military aid to Uzbekistan, including night-vision and GPS equipment and small Raven surveillance drones. Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov has told American officials he wants to replace all of his country's ex-Soviet military equipment with American gear, but this would be by far the country's largest purchase of Western military equipment.