Bell Helicopter Textron has high hopes that three aircraft making their Dubai Air Show debuts–the Bell 407AH and 429, and Bell Boeing V-22 tiltrotor–will soon find permanent homes in the Middle East. The 407AH is Bell’s first commercially qualified armed helicopter and served as the basis for the U.S. Army’s armed reconnaissance helicopter program, which was cancelled in 2008.
The new aircraft, unveiled last March, has attracted a lot of interest after being shown earlier this year in Brunei. Here in Dubai, the 407AH is on display with the 429 light twin developed with Korea Aerospace Industries (Static A72/73).
John Garrison, Bell president and CEO, emphasized the handling qualities and versatility of the single-engine helicopter, which comes equipped with a baseline law-enforcement package that can be customized with multiple weapon configurations, including minigun and rocket pods. “The thing about the 407 that people respect is the flight capability, maneuverability and speed,” he told AIN. “We really do sell the versatility of the program. The flight characteristics and the handling are outstanding.”
Garrison said the 407AH has some similarities, but also “some unique differences,” with the IA-407 being supplied to Iraq through a foreign military sale. Bell has delivered all 24 of the helicopters ordered to the U.S. Army.
The 407 platform also is positioned to replace the current MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aircraft, based on the smaller Sikorsky-Schweizer 333 helicopter. Northrop Grumman has proposed the Fire-X system based on the Bell aircraft, which will be designated MQ-8C. The U.S. Naval Air Systems Command has recommended 28 MQ-8Cs be procured to meet an urgent operational requirement by the Special Operations Command. Garrison pointed out that the aircraft has flown more than 50 hours.