United Arab Emirates Joint Aviation Command (JAC) is to purchase up to six AgustaWestland AW609s for search and rescue (SAR) operations. JAC announced the decision to purchase the new tiltrotor aircraft at the Dubai Airshow on November 10, saying that the deal will comprise a firm order for three AW609s, with options on three more.
With this announcement, the UAE becomes the launch customer for the SAR variant of the AW609. AgustaWestland said that initial deliveries to the JAC are expected to begin around 2019. The JAC AW609s will include a tailored equipment configuration to meet its specific operational requirements.
A JAC spokesman said: “The AW609’s unique speed and range characteristics, combined with its ability to hover, will dramatically increase SAR mission capabilities of the UAE’s Joint Aviation Command. We look forward to operating the AW609 TiltRotor and utilizing the speed advantage it brings.”
Currently, the JAC flies eleven AW139 helicopters which are used for a range of missions, including SAR. The AW609 will further expand JAC’s operational capabilities, making full use of the 275kts (510km/h) maximum speed and 750nm (1,388km) range of the type.
The AW609, which has a similar configuration to the larger Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey, has been under development for some years and two prototypes have been flown. The second of these, N609AG, was destroyed in a crash in Italy on October 30, 2015, which killed both test pilots on board. The cause of the accident is under investigation. Alan Warnes