The UAE Joint Aviation Command (JAC) will acquire three AgustaWestland AW609 tiltrotors for search and rescue missions, the command announced on November 10 at the Dubai Airshow. The JAC will be the launch customer for the SAR variant of the twin-engine tiltrotor.
The JAC’s selection of the AW609 gives the program a needed boost following the October 30 crash of an AW609 prototype in Italy that claimed the lives of two crewmembers. UAE military officers did not express concern about the aircraft during the press conference.
Plans call for deliveries to the JAC to begin in 2019. The command also has options for three additional tiltrotors. It currently operates 11 AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters for various missions, including SAR. With 275-knot maximum speed and 750 nm range, the AW609 promises to provide twice the speed and twice the range of a conventional helicopter.
“The ability of the aircraft gives us flexibility between rotary- and fixed-wing (aircraft,), said Maj. Gen. Abdul al-Hashmi, who announced the selection. “It gives you a better mission capability for search and rescue.” AgustaWestland CEO Daniele Romiti appeared with UAE military officers at the announcement.
The JAC’s selection of the AW609 followed a November 9 announcement that the UAE Air Force will acquire two Bombardier Global 6000-based airborne early warning aircraft from Sweden’s Saab. That transaction is valued at $1.27 billion, including upgrades to two existing Saab 340 Erieye aircraft.