Paris, Nov. 11: James Bond has always had the licence to kill and destroy whatever stood in his way. But this time round, 007 seems to have gone too far, pricking Franco-German pride, even if unwittingly.
In the latest Bond movie, Die Another Day, the secret agent is seen destroying a military attack helicopter. The problem is that it is not just another attack helicopter. It happens to be the state-of-the-art Tiger helicopter — a co-production of the two major European nations being built by the Marseilles-based Eurocopter.
Eurocopter, which is yet to market the Tiger — its most-valued possession — has lodged a strong protest with the makers of the film in Hollywood. Still in the prototype stage, the Tiger offers a low signature on the radar screen, which, the makers claim, will make it the most sought after stealth helicopter.
Though only the Australians and the French armies have so far placed orders for the Tiger, Eurocopter feels within a few years it will be able to give the American Comanche and Apache helicopters a run for their money. With one pilot and one gunner and a fast cruise speed of 275 km per hour, the Tiger has multirole capability. It can fly in adverse weather and can be fitted with either a 30-mm turreted gun or 70-mm rockets and has Mistral air-to-air missiles.
The makers of the film have sought to play down the incident by trying to tell the French that stunts in a movie should not be taken too seriously.
“We are yet to decide whether we should let the matter rest or take legal action against the filmmakers,” an Eurocopter official said while pointing out that the company might still seek an apology from the producers.
Created in 1992 from the merger of the helicopter divisions of Aerospatiale-Matra (France) and Daimler-Chrysler Aerospace (Germany), the Eurocopter Group is one of the top three aerospace companies of the world.
A subsidy of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, Eurocopter is one of the leading producers of helicopter for civil, public and military requirements.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in Bangalore is one of the oldest clients of Eurocopter. The ties go back over 40 years when Aerospatiale gave the licence to HAL to produce the Chetak and Cheetah, the French version of Alouette and Lama helicopters. India has produced 500 such helicopters in this period.
A team from India led by defence secretary Subir Dutta recently visited Eurocopter to check what else was on display that could meet Delhi’s requirements.
In 1984, the French side had given the blueprint of the Dauphin helicopter to HAL for making the Indian version of the Advanced Light Helicopter. It is perhaps another story that even after 18 years, HAL has not been able to produce the helicopter.
Eurocopter, it seems, is now trying to sell the light Fennec and heavy Cougar to India to replace the ageing fleet of Chetak, Cheetah and Sea-King helicopters.