By Rebecca Christie
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
LONDON (Dow Jones)--EADS CASA, a Spanish aerospace firm that is part of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. (5730.FR), says there is a strong international market for its small cargo planes in addition to a potential Pentagon purchase.
EADS CASA has teamed with Raytheon Co. (RTN) to court the U.S. Army's new battlefield transport program. The Pentagon plans to buy as many as 145 planes to replace aging Army aircraft and also to augment the U.S. Air Force's cargo fleet.
But other countries also are eyeing the CN-235 and its larger cousin, the C-295, said Rafael Tentor, vice president for military transports and derivatives. In an interview at last weekend's Royal International Air Tattoo in Fairford, England, Tentor said CASA expects orders from repeat customers and new buyers.
Finland, Poland, Brazil, Jordan and Portugal all operate CASA aircraft and could buy more, Tentor said. About 30 countries operate these aircraft. Ireland and Malaysia each brought a CN-235 to display at the air tattoo.
EADS CASA hopes a big U.S. order will provide enough momentum for a U.S.-based production line. The company already has a U.S. Coast Guard contract and hopes to put down American roots as a way to distinguish itself from Alenia, a Finmeccanica SpA (FNC.MI) unit that also sells a two-engine cargo plane.
"This is something that our competitors cannot have in a short time," Tentor said of the planned U.S. production line.
EADS CASA is setting up shop in Alabama, while Alenia has joined forces with L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. (LLL) and Boeing Co. (BA) to boost its U.S. prospects. That team announced plans this week to open a facility in Jacksonville, Fla.
U.S. analysts have speculated that EADS CASA would have the edge over Alenia if the Air Force and the Army part ways on the project. The two services say they are committed to a team effort on the Joint Cargo Aircraft program, but Lockheed Martin Corp.'s (LMT) decision to enter the four-engine C-130J in the race has fueled speculation about a split.
Finmeccanica Chairman and Chief Executive Pier Francesco Guarguaglini on Wednesday said Finmeccanica wants the two services to stay linked on the project. In an interview at the Farnborough International Airshow, he said the program is a priority for the Italian conglomerate.
-By Rebecca Christie, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9243; Rebecca.Christie@dowjones.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
July 24, 2006 01:46 ET (05:46 GMT)
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