Eurocopter, Lockheed Martin aim to build new Army helicopter

American Eurocopter and Lockheed Martin will team up in an effort to win a contract to produce a new generation of armed scout helicopters for the Army.

The program was once awarded to Bell Helicopter of Fort Worth but then canceled in October due to cost overruns and delays. Officials of EADS North America, parent of Grand Prairie-based American Eurocopter, and Lockheed will announce the joint effort today at the Army Aviation Association of America convention in Nashville, according to company officials.

The team will produce an armed aircraft, dubbed the Armed Scout 645, based on Eurocopter's strong-selling civilian EC-145 twin-engine helicopter. Another version of that aircraft, the UH-72A Lakota, is in use with the Army and National Guard as a light utility helicopter.

The Army aircraft would be produced at Eurocopter's plant in Columbus, Miss., but the company manages the program and provides crew training and other services out of Grand Prairie.

Eurocopter's partner would be Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. That Lockheed division is also based in Grand Prairie, but the Army helicopter work would largely be performed by the company's aircraft weapons and targeting systems unit in Orlando, Fla.

The Army set out in February 2004 to buy a new generation of armed scout helicopters to replace its aging fleet of Bell-built OH-58D Kiowa Warriors. In July 2005, Bell was awarded a contract to develop a replacement aircraft based on the company's Model 407 civilian helicopter.

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