The UAE's Ministry of Defense said last week it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with AgustaWestland to buy three AW609 tilt-rotor aircraft for search and rescue operations.
AgustaWestland, a wholly owned subsidiary of Italy’s Finmeccanica, said it expected the three aircraft to be delivered starting in 2019, with UAE's Joint Aviation Command also taking options for three more aircraft.
“The negotiations are still going on but the (final) deal is almost closed,” said Major General Abdullah Al-Hashimi, the Ministry's Executive Director of Strategic Analysis, before signing the MoU.
The AgustaWestland AW609, formerly the Bell/Agusta BA609, is a twin-engined tilt-rotor aircraft that can take off, land and hover like a helicopter, but flies like a plane, giving it greater speed and range than helicopters.
“The capability of the aircraft gives us flexibility between rotor and fixed-wing, that's why we are really going for this aircraft,” Hashemi said.
“It's not for any other reason, like Yemen or anything else,” he added, after being asked whether the aircraft would be deployed to support the UAE's military operations assisting Yemeni government forces fighting Iran-allied rebels.
The order will be the UAE’s second purchase this year from AgustaWestland, after buying nine AW139 helicopters in February, six of which were designated for search and rescue operations.