Qatar Adds 21 AW139 Utility Helicopters
Fresh from its purchase of 2 C-17 strategic airlifters, Qatar’s Emiri Air Force signed a EUR 260 million (currently about $400 million) contract with AgustaWestland in July 2007 for 18 AW139 medium twin helicopters (formerly the AB139, until the Bell partnership dissolved in 2005). A March 2011 order for 3 more specialized EMS/MEDEVAC variants brought the total to 21.
The Qatar Emiri Air Force currently flies old Westland Commando helicopters in heavier utility and maritime roles, and SA341 Gazelles in light helicopter and attack roles. The AW139 will fit somewhere in the middle.
With over 370 AW139s ordered to date, the helicopter has been a commercial success in roles ranging from VIP transport, to oil industry service, to law enforcement. At the same time, previous military orders had been limited to Ireland (4+2 options) and the Estonian Border Guard, plus 4 governments who use it in a search and rescue capacity (Japan, Oman, Spain, UAE).
The AW139’s positioning between the full utility and light helicopter segments is its source of commercial advantage, and appears to fit Qatar’s set of needs very well, but may be a detriment to other military sales. The AW139’s 8-15 troop capacity made it the largest and most powerful contender in the USA’s $3+ billion Light Utility Helicopter competition, for instance, but it lost to Eurocopter’s smaller EC145.
March 21/11: AgustaWestland announces that the Qatar Armed Forces have ordered another 3 AW139 medium twin helicopters plus a comprehensive support package. These aircraft will be operated by the Qatar Emiri Air Force to perform emergency medical service (EMS/ MEDEVAC) missions.
Nov 24/09: AgustaWestland announces delivery of the first AW139 to Qatar, during an official ceremony held today at AgustaWestland’s Vergiate plant in Italy. The Qatar Armed Forces becomes the 3rd operator of military-configured AW139 helicopters following the Irish Air Corps and UAE Armed Forces.
July 21/07: Qatar buys its initial set of 18 AW139s. The helicopters will be used for utility tasks, troop transport, search and rescue, border patrol, special forces operations, law enforcement and homeland security. AW release