SOFEX 2012: Arab Spring blamed for slow-moving Little Bird contract
The Arab Spring and civil unrest in Syria are responsible for delaying Jordan's attempts to purchase Boeing AH-6i 'Little Bird' helicopters, defence sources have suggested.
Commander of the Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF), Maj Gen Malek Habashna told Shephard the service remains committed to purchasing 18 AH-6i airframes despite two years passing since a Letter of Intent was signed in May 2010.
However, industry sources told Shephard that 'external events' had seen the allocated money diverted to other projects such as monitoring of the Syrian situation. Boeing was unable to comment on the current position of negotiations but sources said it had already signed initial draft contracts for the deal.
Discussing the potential contract at the Special Operations Forces Exhibition (SOFEX) in Amman, Jordan, Habashna said the service was 'still considering the offer' from Boeing.
'We hope in the future that we will have the funding allocated,' he continued.
The RJAF wants a platform such as the AH-6i in order to attain a capability for enhanced border security and training at low operating costs. Currently, the RJAF operates 33 AH-1F Huey Cobra attack helicopters but it is not yet clear what the acquisition of the AH-6i would mean for this fleet.
Jordan's Special Operations Forces already operate an undisclosed number of MD530Fs, two of which performed at the opening ceremony of SOFEX this week.
Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin said it would be in a position to support any acquisition of AH-6i's by Jordan with its DAGR munition. Following tests over the past two years, Lockheed Martin said it 'hoped to be a part of the Little Bird solution', should the deal go through.
Source: By Andrew White in Amman, Jordan / Shephard News Team - 16 May 2012
Photo: The Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) AH-6i airframes (Photo by shephardmedia.com)