French authorities have agreed to cut 20 Tiger combat helicopters and retrofit to simplify the two-model fleet to the more capable attack version, Airbus Helicopter executive vice president Dominique Maudet said on Jan. 27.
The value of the contract will remain the same despite the smaller number of units because unit cost will increase. The new feature is a conversion of the existing escort unit to the attack model, he said.
The 20-strong cut stems from the 2014-19 multiyear budget law, which slashed a planned acquisition of 80 Tigers to 60, reflecting tough budgetary constraints. The Army would have received 40 of the support and escort, and 40 in the support and attack version.
The multiyear budget law sets out a delivery of 16 new Tigers out to 2019.
The Direction Générale de l’Armement “amended the Tiger contract, which went into effect Dec. 19,” a spokesman for the procurement office said. Under the amendment, there is a firm order for 24 attack and a retrofit of 36 escort units, he said.
That firm order of 24 new attack helicopters is effectively a cut of 16 from the previous contract for 40 units. Airbus Helicopters said there are also options to compensate for the reduced order, but gave no details.
Airbus Helicopter is expected to deliver the first retrofit of the escort to the attack model in 2017.
The existing fleet of escort units will be upgraded with laser-guided Hellfire II missiles and a more powerful engine.
Read More:France Cuts Order for Tiger Helicopters.