Helicopters: the Chinese and Russian markets within reach of Safran

The Safran group is multiplying its local cooperation initiatives and jockeying for position on the promising Russian and Chinese helicopter markets.

The forecasts are spectacular: as from 2025, Russia, China and India should account between them for 50% of the world's helicopter market, civil and military combined. Of these three countries, China is certainly the one that offers the greatest opportunities. Yet even though aerospace ranks among the priorities of the 11th five-year plan in China, low-altitude airspace there remains under the strict control of the military, severely restricting the development of private and commercial helicopter fleets. While awaiting the opening up of Chinese airspace, Safran has been doing its groundwork in the country. "The sale of the Dauphin license by Aerospatiale in 1980 might be deemed the founding act of Safran's relations in China," explains Muriel Duthon, Regional Manager Asia, Safran group. "Turbomeca subsequently sold the license for the Arriel 1 turbine, and Sagem followed suit with the Dauphin autopilot." For Safran, this translated into the setting up of joint ventures and the signing of subcontracting deals with local partners for the manufacturing of parts and for maintenance.

Safran stands ready
For now, there is a significant gap between the fleets currently in service and the country's needs. Various sources evaluate a demand for between 1000 and 1500 civil and public authority helicopters and for 2000 military helicopters in the next ten years. The Chinese aeronautical industry is also eagerly awaiting increased access to the country's air space, while the Western manufacturers remain poised in the starting blocks.
Over the next 10 years, Safran's trump card could well be the "Ardiden 3", a new engine developed by Turbomeca. The Chinese aerospace company, AVIC, plans to equip its Z-15 helicopter (Chinese version of the Eurocopter EC175) with this new-generation turboshaft engine. Under the name WZ-16, it will be produced in the framework of an equal joint venture with Safran.

The Russian awakening
The Russian helicopter market differs from the Chinese market, in particular with regard to its history. "The aeronautical industry had always played a major role in the development of Soviet Russia," points out Jean-Christophe Corde, Group VP for Europe, Central Asia and Africa: "It offered a means of overcoming the vast distances in the territory while making up for the lack of infrastructure." There, the helicopter industry is highly prized, testified to by the fact that three Russian design bureaus - Mil, Kamov and Kazan Helicopters - maintain a tight hold over the national helicopter market. Today, the Russian helicopter industry nurtures new ambitions, buoyed by the reorganization of its structures and the launch of new-generation helicopter projects. "Russia is making available the resources to match its ambitions, and is demonstrating a very strong desire to set up joint ventures with Western equipment manufacturers," Jean-Christophe Corde explains: "Lots of opportunities are opening up and Safran is very well-placed to grasp them."

Playing the cooperative card
Turbomeca is already involved in three cooperative programs, of which the Kamov Ka226T is the most advanced. This medium-tonnage civil helicopter, equipped with two Arrius 2G1 turbines, is due to receive certification in mid-2012. The two other projects are the Kamov 62, equipped with two Ardiden 3G engines, and the Mil Mi34 powered by two Arrius 2F engines. Within this framework, Turbomeca and its Russian partners are considering setting up new cooperative ventures involving engineering and design departments and production sites. "In the field of avionics and flight controls, its status as a world leader will offer Sagem (Safran group) some fine opportunities," suggests Jean-Christophe Corde: "There is no doubt that Safran enjoys a strong and very positive image in Russia thanks, in particular, to the cooperation that went into the Sukhoi Superjet 100 regional passenger jet and its engine, the SaM146. The helicopter activity is also highly lucrative and corresponds perfectly to the fields of excellence of the Group." Thanks to an audacious cooperation and partnership policy, the Safran group is well-placed to play a part in the development of this activity.