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Boeing expects Italy will buy 16-20 new CH-47F Chinook helicopters

Washington, USA - Probably in 2008-2009 time-frame

(WAPA) - Boeing Corp. expects Italy will buy 16 to 20 CH-47F Chinook helicopters, through Boeing's joint production agreement with Italian conglomerate Finmecccanica SpA.

The comments mark the first time Boeing has said how many helicopters Italy might buy. The deal has been in the works for a while, as Italy prepares to replace a fleet of aging, older-model Chinook helicopters. Boeing said it expects the orders in the 2008-2009 time-frame.

Boeing and Finmeccanica's AgustaWestland unit have a longstanding relationship on Chinook production. Last year, the companies signed a new memorandum of understanding that lays out an industrial agreement for further Italian production.

The expected Italian purchase will be a direct commercial sale, with AgustaWestland as the prime contractor and Boeing as the lead subcontractor, said Boeing spokesman Joseph LaMarca. Boeing also has a full production line in the U.S. that fills Pentagon orders and exports helicopters through the U.S. foreign military sales process.

Analysts said Italy has a strong interest in keeping its Chinook production line. However, Italy's next purchase may be more complicated because Italy now has a home-grown competitor, the AgustaWestland EH-101.

Versions of the Chinook and the 101 both are involved in a US Air Force contest for a new search and rescue helicopter. The Air Force picked Boeing last year, but that choice is now under review after GAO upheld protests from Lockheed Martin, which is working with AgustaWestland to offer the New York-built US-101, and United Technologies Corp.'s (UTXUnited Technologies Corporation). (Avionews)

(World Aeronautical Press Agency - )
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