Eurocopter says it doubts an increase in demand for its helicopters before the middle of 2010, after suffering a decline in orders in 2009.

Lower orders for light helicopters in 2009 will lead to lower production rates in 2010, while military helicopter rates will increase, according to a company statement.

The firm delivered 558 civil and military aircraft in 2009 and secured production orders for 344 helicopters in the year.

Eurocopter CEO Lutz Bertling said the downturn in the corporate, tourism and EMS markets, which typically acquire smaller helicopters, has been countered by a stable oil and gas market due to new exploration activities and by a strong military market.

“Our decision to focus on governmental and services orders in 2009 has proven to be right and allowed us to increase our backlog by more than €1bn,” he said.

For 2010, Eurocopter plans to implement cost reductions and reduce inventory to generate the cash for investing in the company’s future.

The company will also invest in projects such as the development of X4, a successor for the Dauphin helicopter, and the aerial armed scout proposed for the US Army.