Andrea Spinelli/GENOA

The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) is near to concluding a L600 billion ($340 million) order for 40 Agusta Bell AB412EP helicopters for a search-and-rescue (SAR) requirement.

Details of the pending deal became apparent during the visit of Saudi Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi Arabian deputy prime minister and defence and aviation minister, and Beniamino Andreatta, Italy's defence minister, to Agusta earlier in Spetember.

The contract has been under discussion for months, and final signature is expected in early 1998.

Under the terms of the agreement, production of the 40 helicopters would be divided equally between Bell and Agusta. While the bulk of the AB412s will be in the SAR configuration, three or four will be used for the VIP transport role. No delivery schedule details have yet been released.

While the AB412 can be produced in a combat-rescue SAR configuration, the indications are that the RSAF aircraft will be in the SAR configuration only. The AB412EP is a hot-and-high variant of the basic Bell 412, with an improved Pratt &Whitney Canada PT6T-3D twin-turboshaft, as well as an uprated transmission. It is not known which, if any, other helicopters were considered for the SARrole.

The RSAF's configuration is understood to be similar to that of the Italian coast guard for its AB412s, with the Saudis having selected a nose-mounted radome, forward-looking infra-red and a searchlight.

Aziz was also shown the A129 Mangusta light-attack helicopter, the A119 Koala utility helicopter, and the EHIndustries EH101 medium-lift helicopter during his visit to Agusta. The Saudi Arabians are major Agusta customers, having purchased about 100 helicopters since 1966.

Source: Flight International