Monday 31 December 2007

Canadian engines turn up in Chinese attack helicopter

The U.S. State Department said it was investigating how engines made by a Pratt & Whitney subsidiary in Canada turned up in a Chinese attack helicopter.

Pratt & Whitney Canada said last week that 10 engines were sent to China in 2001 and 2002 under a Canadian government export license for use in civilian copters. But the engines, the company said, ended up in prototypes of the Z-10, China's first domestically developed attack copter, designed to carry guided antitank missiles.

While the Canadian government plans no action against Pratt & Whitney over the military diversion, a State Department spokesman, Karl Duckworth, said the U.S. government was continuing an investigation into the company's actions. He declined to provide details, though U.S. export controls prohibit providing certain technology for military use.

It is unclear under what conditions the controls would apply to Pratt & Whitney. Some foreign-made technology uses American components and designs, and Pratt & Whitney is owned by a U.S. company, United Technologies of Hartford, Connecticut.

In an e-mailed statement, Jean-Daniel Hamelin, a spokesman for Pratt & Whitney Canada, said the company was selected by a Chinese aircraft maker in 2000 to provide engines for the civilian variation of a helicopter that was simultaneously being developed for the military. When the company, based near Montreal, applied for an export license, it understood that the Chinese would develop their own engine for the military model, Hamelin wrote.
But, Hamelin added, "the Chinese engine encountered delays, and our engines were used during the development of the common platform." Shipments to China by the company's Canadian unit stopped in 2002. It is unclear why sales were halted.

The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which issued the export license, said Friday that it had no concerns about the way the engine sale was handled or the effectiveness of its export control program for technologies with potential military applications.

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