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Algerians assemble new plant deal with Leonardo

Posted 11 September 2019 · Add Comment

Africa is about to get a new helicopter assembly plant following a deal between Algeria and European manufacturer Leonardo. Alan Dron reports.

By 2021, helicopters are scheduled to be rolling off the assembly line at a new facility at Aïn Arnat, in Sétif province, some 200km east of Algiers.
Work is now being pushed ahead on the factory, which is the result of an agreement in March between the country’s Ministry of National Defence and Italy-based Leonardo. The deal has been under consideration for some time, with an initial memorandum of understanding (MoU) having been signed in August 2016.
According to reports at that time, the Algerian defence ministry envisaged assembling three types of light and medium helicopters for a range of duties, including personnel transport, cargo, medical evacuation and surveillance.
As well as assembly, Leonardo said at the time that the joint company would provide after-sales services, including repair and overhaul, training and the development of high-tech capabilities in the field of aeronautical materials.
Under the agreement, the ministry will hold a controlling 51% of the joint venture (JV), with Leonardo taking the remaining 49%. According to the partners: “The JV supports Algeria’s plan to play a significant role in the industrial aeronautical sector.”
The new plant will assemble, sell and support several models of helicopter from Leonardo’s range, primarily to meet Algeria’s national requirements, but also for export. Additionally, the JV will provide end-users with technical support, maintenance and training services.
Leonardo said: “The new agreement is a major achievement in the solid collaboration with Algeria that we have strengthened in recent years. This result demonstrates the company’s reliability as a partner and its capability to meet demanding requirements and deliver high-quality, advanced products.”
Many aspects of the collaboration remain shrouded in mystery. The company responded to most of a series of questions from African Aerospace with: “Additional details cannot be provided.”
It could not, for example, say what type of helicopters would be assembled at Aïn Arnat, or whether it would supply managers and technicians to help the plant get under way. Neither could it say whether Algeria would actually produce components for the helicopters, or merely assemble them.
However, the new assembly line will be in addition to the Italian company’s existing assembly lines in Italy and the UK, rather than replacing them.
The project will undoubtedly provide valuable skilled jobs for Algerians and boost the technical capabilities of the Algerian aerospace sector, helping it follow the growing success of aerospace suppliers in Morocco and Tunisia, which have used their proximity to Europe and common use of the French language to increasingly produce components for companies such as Airbus.
Algeria has proved to be a good market for Leonardo over the past decade. Products flying under Algerian colours – both in the armed forces and for several police and paramilitary organisations – include an estimated 24 AW109 search and rescue (SAR)/utility helicopters, 11 AW139 medium-lift SAR/utility models and eight AW119 training helicopters, as well as seven AW101 helicopters that operate in both the SAR and VIP transport roles. Additionally, the Algerian Naval Forces operate 10 AW Super Lynx Mk130 and Mk140 in the SAR and armed roles, respectively.
Algeria supports a large military establishment; its defence expenditure, as recorded by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) 2018 Yearbook, was $9.6 billion, which placed it 25th in terms of the world’s largest spenders on defence.
The north African nation has made several significant arms purchases in recent years (notably from its long-term weapons supplier, Russia) and so the prospects for orders for the new assembly plant are reasonable, especially if the prospect of a ‘Made in Africa’ product tempts other nations on the continent.

 

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