AIRBUS says it has the chance to "reinvigorate the UK's helicopter industry" if it's successful in winning a Ministry of Defence (MoD) contract for a fleet of new aircraft. 

On Friday, the company held an event at its Broughton site to showcase the H175M helicopter that it hopes will win the MoD’s new Medium Lift Helicopter competition to replace the 23-strong Puma 2 fleet in RAF service with a new model of aircraft. 

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If Airbus is successful in winning the contract - worth an estimated £1.2 billion - the company will produce hundreds of the H175M.

It will be produced at a new Helicopter Production facility at the Broughton site. The West Factory, where the A380s were manufactured before production was ceased, would be the likely production site for the H175Ms.

Airbus has said this will create several hundred new jobs, as well as sustaining thousands more throughout the UK supply chain including in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The National Wales: Inside the cockpit. Inside the cockpit.

It will also boost apprenticeship opportunities at Airbus. 

It could see some 500 aircraft built and exported across the globe. 

Lenny Brown MBE, managing director of Airbus Helicopters in the UK, said: "Our plan would seek to establish a H175M Production Line in an existing facility on the commercial wing manufacturing plant’s footprint at Broughton. We would also transfer a number of key high value component manufacturing capabilities to the UK supply chain. We would emphasise our demonstrable track record of making long-term, high value investments in the UK.

"In short, this is a medium to long-term ambition and we are at the very outset but we are excited by the opportunity and believe we could revolutionise the UK military helicopter market if selected."

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At its entry into military service, the H175M will be able to cover a wide range of typical missions such as utility/troop transport, special operations, medical evacuation, command control and Combat SAR, depending on the list of mission optional items the customer selects.

The National Wales: Local air cadets with the pilots of the H175M which touched down in Broughton on Friday.Local air cadets with the pilots of the H175M which touched down in Broughton on Friday.

A decision on the winner of the contract is expected some time in the next year, and Airbus would be expected to enter production in compliance with a first delivery (entry into service) by 2024/25 in an accelerated schedule. Airbus is up against Italian company Leonardo's AW149 aircraft for the valuable contract. 

Among those in attendance at the event on Friday were local politicians, including MPs Mark Tami and Sarah Atherton, and business leaders. Guests were treated to a glimpse of the H175Ms capability as it touched down at the site.

Airbus head of plant, Jerome Blandin, said: "This will reinvigorate the UK's helicopter industry. Broughton has long since been seen as the crown jewell of Airbus plants - and where better than here to run production of the H175M if we win this contract. 

"This is an amazing opportunity for the company, and one we will do everything we can to win. It would be a huge boost for north Wales and the north west."

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