AgustaWestland secures a £350m order for Wildcats
Somerset-based helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland has secured its first export order for the Wildcat in a deal worth around £350 million.
South Korea has agreed to buy eight AW159 Wildcats – the replacement for the long-serving Lynx.
The firm said the contract, which includes aircrew and maintainer training, initial spares and support services, will help sustain several hundred jobs at its Yeovil factory.
AgustaWestland is already delivering Wildcats into service in the UK to fulfil the Ministry of Defence's order for 62 AW159 helicopters.
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Deliveries of the AW159s for the Republic of Korea will start in 2015 and be completed in 2016. Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Today's announcement demonstrates Britain's ability to successfully compete in the global race.
"I'm delighted the Korean Government has chosen to continue its relationship with AgustaWestland in selecting this state of the art maritime helicopter which will help safeguard high quality jobs and skills in Yeovil and across the country.
"The Royal Navy already enjoys a very close relationship with Korea, and I have no doubt that this decision will only strengthen further our essential bilateral relationship."
Bruno Spagnolini, chief executive of AgustaWestland said: "This was a demanding competition, with an extensive evaluation of all the competitors, and demonstrates that the AW159 offers a winning combination of capability and value for money, even when competing against larger helicopters.
"We've had a long and successful partnership with the Republic of Korea Navy, which operates a large fleet of our Super Lynx helicopters, so we welcome their continued confidence in our aircraft and intend to build on today's success in other export markets in future."
The Korean Navy aircraft will be equipped with a wide range of mission equipment including an active dipping sonar, 360 degree scan radar, nose mounted electro-optical device and a rescue hoist. It will also be equipped to carry anti-ship missiles, torpedoes and a door-mounted gun. This will allow it to perform a wide range of roles, including anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue, maritime security and maritime surveillance.
UK Trade and Investment Minister Lord Green said: "I am delighted that the Republic of Korea has selected this state of the art maritime helicopter. The Korean Government and its Defence Acquisition and Programme Administration conducted a thorough and transparent competition and the UK Government will do all it can to ensure a smooth introduction of AW159 into service with the Republic of Korea Navy."
The AW159 is replacing Lynx helicopters. It has been designed as an agile craft that is also capable of high speeds.