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Airbus Helicopters to quiz Japan over contract loss

PARIS, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Airbus Helicopters plans to ask Japan to explain why it lost out to Fuji Heavy Industries and Textron Inc's Bell Helicopters in a $3 billion contract to supply a fleet of military transport aircraft, it said on Tuesday.

Asked about a report by the Financial Times that it was preparing legal action against Japan's ministry of defence over the contract, a spokesman for the division of Airbus Group said the situation had not reached that stage.

Japan said last month that it had chosen Fuji Heavy-Bell over joint bids by Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Airbus, and by Finmeccanica's AgustaWestland and Japanese trading company Mitsui & Co.

In a statement on Tuesday, Airbus Helicopters expressed "extreme surprise" that Fuji Heavy-Bell was selected for the development of a next-generation multi-purpose helicopter for the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.

Airbus Helicopters said Japan had chosen a platform that would be over 60 years old when the so-called UH-X enters service, whereas its proposal was based on a "clean-sheet development" with export potential for both military and civil versions.

"Airbus Helicopters has taken the necessary actions with its partner KHI to ask for clarifications," the European company said.

A Bell Helicopter spokesman declined to comment on Airbus Helicopters' complaint.

(Reporting by Cyril Altmeyer; additional reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington; editing by Susan Thomas)