Qatar has signed a letter of intent covering the possible acquisition of 22 NH Industries NH90 helicopters in a deal worth around €2 billion ($2.8 billion).

Revealed at the recent Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference, the tentative deal covers the purchase of 12 of the TTH troop transport variant and 10 of the navalised NFH model.

No timeline has been revealed for the conclusion of the negotiations and NH Industries - a three-way consortium comprising Airbus Helicopters, AgustaWestland and Fokker - declines to comment on the deal.

Although the 11t-class NH90 has a backlog of a little over 300 units according to Flightglobal's Ascend Online database, the type has struggled to attract additional orders and has faced cancellations from its initial customers. As such, the Qatar deal represents significant new business for the type.

Airbus Helicopters revealed in January that it was in talks with the Gulf state over a possible order, but industry insiders say they did not expect discussions to have progressed so rapidly.

If finalised, Qatar would become the second Middle Eastern customer for the type, with Oman having already ordered four of the TTH variant.

So far the programme has delivered 186 helicopters, with the 200th handover previsioned for the second quarter.

Separately, Germany, which is looking to renegotiate a broader commitment for new helicopters, is close to finalising a memorandum of understanding signed last year which would see it cut its order for Airbus Helicopters Tiger attack rotorcraft to 57 from 80 and NH90 TTHs to 82 from 122.

It plans to use the near €1.15 billion saving to fund the development and acquisition of 18 examples of a new NFH variant it calls "Sea Lion" to replace its navy's Westland Lynx and Sea King fleets.