French-German aircraft manufacturer Airbus is ready to close and transfer to another country its Ghimbav-based factory in Romania if Bucharest doesn’t make a clear offer to buy Airbus helicopters, according to the French financial newspaper La Tribune, which cites sources from Airbus Helicopters.
The new boss of Airbus Helicopters, Bruno Even, who is looking at the company’s international footprint, wants a strong positioning from the Romanians.
According to the French newspaper, the data in the file are clear for the manufacturer: either Bucharest buys helicopters to the French-German manufacturer to run the assembly line of the H215 transport helicopter in Ghrimbav, inaugurated in August 2016 in the presence of former French president François Hollande, or the latter is closed and transferred to another country.
With this assembly line, Romania would have entered the small circle of countries that master the manufacture of a helicopter (France, United States, Russia, China, Italy, India and UK).
“They are ready to sacrifice 50 years of cooperation. It is a huge disappointment,” said a source within the manufacturer, who has already trained about fifty Romanian workers in Marignane.
Airbus Helicopters will nevertheless keep its maintenance plant in Ghrimbav, which has recently modernized 23 RAF (Royal Air Force) Puma.
“Our patience is limited, we need a direct order of at least 16 H215M from the Romanian army to launch the assembly line but the Romanians do not seem interested any more”, explains the source within Airbus Helicopters.
The manufacturer has sold under license in the 1970s about sixty Puma helicopters in Romania. Even today, around 40 helicopters remain in operational service in the Romanian army, even though they are outdated.
Located in Ghrimbav (near Brasov) 180 km north of Bucharest, this assembly line has been dimensioned for a production capacity of 15 aircraft per year.
Airbus Helicopters is committed to making machines sold in Romania on the export markets in Romania. With orders won on international markets, the manufacturer would already have a two-year load plan for the Ghrimbav assembly line (5/6 for Romania, 9 for the export market), according to La Tribune.
“With or without them, we will have orders for export,” says one source at Airbus Helicopters.
The article in La Tribune comes just before the visit to France (Monday in Paris and Tuesday in Marignane, near Marseille) of the Romanian minister of Defense, Mihai Fifor, who meets his counterpart Florence Parly.
The visit could clarify the incomprehension between Bucharest and Airbus Helicopters.
Despite the promises made to Emmanuel Macron in August 2017 during his visit to Romania, nothing happened for the European manufacturer.
During the last year, Bucharest has established close ties with US helicopter producer Bell, which is eyeing an order for 45 attack helicopters (24 AH-1Z Viper) – previously not Romania’s priority – and tactical transport (21 UH-1Y Venom).
If the contract is signed, these devices would be assembled by IAR Ghimbav, the historical partner of Airbus Helicopters.