Eurocopter Kazakhstan, a joint venture between Eurocopter and state-owned Kazakhstan Engineering, has received its first EC145 light utility helicopter kits, and expects to have eight kits to assemble by mid-November, says EADS Kazakhstan General Director Silvere Delaunay.

The Kazakhstan government has placed firm orders for 14 EC145s from a letter of intent (LOI) for up to 45 EC145s and 20 EC725 multirole helicopters. Of the 14 orders placed, 10 helicopters are destined for the Ministry of Emergency Situations, while the remaining four will go to the Ministry of Defense.

Six EC145s already have been assembled in Kazakhstan, but were completed at a different facility. All final assembly, customization and some systems integration will now occur at the new Eurocopter Kazakhstan plant in Astana, which officially opened in early July at an event attended by Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev.

The venture currently has about 50 employees, and will increase to 120 once the full production capacity of 10 EC145s a year is reached, Delaunay tells Aviation Week. More employees will be added for EC725 assembly, Delaunay adds, with a final total determined when the scope of work is finalized. Eurocopter hopes to firm up some orders for the EC725s next year. The LOI calls for 20 units to be delivered by 2020.

The new joint venture is intended as a regional center for Central Asia, providing helicopter maintenance and training, Delaunay says. The facility has the capacity to handle scheduled and nonscheduled maintenance for a fleet of 90 helicopters, he adds.

“Kazakhstan is seen as a strategic country for the EADS Group,” Delaunay says. “The EC145 sold from the JV is at the same quality level as those imported from Europe, but due to the fact the helicopter is assembled in Kazakhstan, the EC145 will benefit from tax incentives.”

The joint venture may also help Eurocopter open the Russian market, as Kazakhstan takes part in an economic pact with Belarus and Russia that abolishes tariffs and import duties on goods exported between the countries.

Apart from the Eurocopter deal, EADS also has firm orders from Kazakhstan for two Airbus Military C295 transport aircraft from a memorandum of understanding for up to eight of the type, Delaunay says. The two C295s are scheduled for delivery to Kazakhstan’s air force by year’s end.

Meanwhile, EADS’s space and satellite business Astrium has a contract to supply two Earth-observation satellites to Kazakhstan’s space agency Kazcosmos, says the agency’s chairman, Talgat Musabayev. To fulfill Kazcosmos’ requirement for transfer of technology and know-how, Astrium has established Ghalam, a joint-venture with Kazcosmos’ subsidiary Kazakhstan Garysh Sapary, to assemble, integrate and test satellites at a purpose-built facility in Astana.

Kazakhstan Garysh Sapary also is constructing a space center that will operate Kazakhstan’s satellites in orbit. Astrium is providing some equipment and technology for the center.