DUBAI AIRSHOW — Middle East governments appear increasingly interested in militarized versions of civilian helicopters — dubbed Special Mission Helicopters — as well as military trainers, according to a Bell Textron official.
In the latest sign of that interest, the company announced today the delivery of the first batch of five helicopters of Bell 505 to the Royal Jordanian Air Force.
“We have seen a lot of interest in military trainers and specifically Bell 505, since every country in the region is looking to modernize their military trainers,” Patrick Moulay, senior vice president of international commercial sales at Bell told Breaking Defense.
In July 2022 Jordan ordered 10 Bell 505 trainers along with flight training device and comprehensive computer-based training package to support basic and advanced rotorcraft flight training for King Hussein Air College in Mafraq, Jordan.
In a statement, Royal Jordanian Air Force Commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad F. Hiyasat, “We are pleased to receive the first Bell 505 aircraft of our new fleet and look forward to providing our pilots with one of the best possible training platforms. These deliveries mark the expansion of our operations in the country and the growth of the capabilities of the Royal Jordanian Air Force.”
Meanwhile the Kingdom of Bahrain received the first three of 10 of its own Bell 505 helos earlier this year.
Moulay added that there is also lot of Middle East interest in the armed Bell 407 in particular. “Many of those countries do not want to go all the way to an Apache or Zulu [AH-1Z Viper] instead they want to get more information on the armed Bell 407 light attack solution capabilities,” he said.
“Special mission aircraft is a solution that actually the market has been demanding for years. Driven by customer base, we have worked to offer a solution based on a commercial platform, specifically the 407 armed helicopters which is ready to go, and the next product in line is going to be 412 armed and then 429 armed,” Moulay told Breaking Defense.
At Dubai Airshow 2023 an armed Bell 407 MRH was exhibited with UAE flag on it. Moulay said a deal for 12 armed 407s has recently been signed with a Middle East customer, but declined to name the recipient or provide additional information.
Moulay’s comments echoed those from another Bell official, Douglas Wolfe, who told Breaking Defense at the Paris Airshow in June that the company had seen global interest in converted helos because they come at a lower price tag fully dedicated military aircraft.
“Because many countries don’t have the budget to afford a military helicopter like AH-64 Apache or modern, large, purpose-built helicopter like the AH-1Z [Viper], countries request cost-effective platforms,” Wolfe said at the time.
Here in Dubai, Moulay also said the aicraft can also be more quickly approved for sale and delivered compared to platforms that require congressional notification. Moulay said the contracts can clear the bureaucratic process in less than six months compared to a couple of years in a typical FMS.
That’s not to say dedicated military aircraft are off the table. In 2018 Bell signed a contract with Bahrain for 12 AH-1Zulu helicopters in a deal worth $911.4 million.