x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

UAE seeks 'VIP' Black Hawks with air conditioning

The UAE is considering adding five "VIP" Black Hawk helicopters to its fleet for transporting officials.

DUBAI // The UAE is considering the purchase of five Black Hawk helicopters customised to transport VIPs, according to a US government report.

The order would add to the more than 60 Black Hawks the military already owns or has on order.

The Government has "requested a possible sale" of the American-made aircraft and related equipment worth around US$217 million (Dh796.9m), the US Defence Security Co-operation Agency said in a report late last month to the US Congress.

The helicopters would include standard Black Hawk equipment, such as radar systems, night vision and a missile warning system. However, the VIP versions would also feature air conditioning and more comfortable seats than those found in the standard model.

"They have a top-end interior designed for comfort and efficiency. They're quieter inside. Everything is normal standard Black Hawk stuff," said Stephen Suttles, the director of UAE business development for the US-based Black Hawk manufacturer, Sikorsky.

A UAE military spokesman declined to confirm the report, while the US Defence Security Co-operation Agency did not reply to requests for comment.

At its annual International Defence Exhibition (Idex) in February, the military announced it would spend Dh990m on arming 23 of its existing fleet of Black Hawks. The upgraded helicopters could provide close air support to ground forces, particularly in counterterrorism operations, as well as serving other uses.

"They could be for transportation, humanitarian or military purposes with troops," the Idex spokesman Maj Gen Obeid Al Ketbi said at the time.

The UAE ordered 26 unarmed Black Hawks last year and 14 the year before, according to Sikorsky officials. Five of those aircraft have been delivered this year, with the rest to arrive over the next 12 months, Mr Suttles said.