PICTURE: Qatar accepts first AW139 military helicopter

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Qatar's air force has accepted its first of 18 AW139 multi-mission helicopters, and become the third military service to receive AgustaWestland's medium-twin design.

Handed over during a 23 November ceremony at the Finmecannica company's Vergiate production facility in Italy, the AW139 - carrying the registration QA 60 - will be used for utility and troop transport tasks, for which it can carry up to 15 troops.

Additional missions that could be flown using Qatar's new aircraft include special forces operations, plus search and rescue, border patrol and homeland security duties, AgustaWestland says. With a maximum take-off weight of around 6.4t, the AW139 can cruise at up to 165kt (300km/h), it adds.

 
© AgustaWestland

Qatar ordered its AW139 fleet in August 2008, with its contract also covering crew training services and an initial package of spares. Its 18-aircraft purchase represents AgustaWestland's largest military sale of the type, with the Irish Air Corps now operating six and the United Arab Emirates having received seven of the nine aircraft on order for its air force.

New helicopters form only part of Qatar's military equipment modernisation programme. The Gulf state took delivery of two Boeing C-17s earlier this year and could order another two of the strategic transports, and is to acquire four C-130J tactical transports from Lockheed Martin.