In this interview – Mr. Joel Best, Director Africa, Central Asia, Europe, Middle East Bell Global Military Sales and Strategy, touches on the challenges of the industry and Bell’s future plans.
– Bell has been present in the Middle East for almost 50 years working with different customers, what Middle Eastern countries are interested in Bell?
Bell has been working with different customers in various industries, including defense, corporate/VVIP transport, and para-public services. It just depends on what the customer’s request and needs are.
While there are some limitations on what we can say for specific countries pursuing acquisitions through the Foreign Military Sale process, Bell is actively processing requests for combinations of the V-22 Osprey, the UH-1Y and AH-1Z.
Perhaps the most recent update for the region is the Bahrain AH-1Z. Bell has completed the first aircraft and delivered it to the U.S. Government. We are looking forward to the first in-country delivery this year.
– How do you see the field of helicopters in the Middle East? Do you believe it is rising in general and for Bell helicopters in particular?
If you look at some of the markets in the Middle East, you can see rising interest in helicopters. The AH-1Z will soon be operating with the Royal Bahraini Air Force, the Bell 412 is currently used by operators throughout the GCC, and the UAE has purchased more than 40 Bell 407s.
– What are your plans to expand your presence in the Middle East?
The Middle East has a tremendous aviation market with ever-growing vertical needs. We have facilities worldwide working with customers to meet their variety of needs and are confident we could meet the demand for military or commercial aircraft. The advantage of Bell is we offer a wide array of solutions and customize them for the client. To help expand further, we ensure the conversation is taking place with customers and taking their feedback to offer the best solution right now.
– How do you see a potential global joint cooperation in the field of helicopters? Is cooperation with well-known Arab companies a possible option?
Industrial cooperation is a large part of several helicopter deals, particularly in government purchases for Foreign Military Sales programs. More important is ensuring that the customer can support the aircraft beyond acquisition. Bell regularly works with governments and corporations to develop the best solution that secures the support for the aircraft.
– Will there be technical modifications to the helicopters to suit the different climates of the countries associated with your potential customers?
One of the great things about Bell is that right now you can find pictures and videos of Bell aircraft operating around the world, from the desert to the arctic and everything in between. If an aircraft requires a specific environmental modification, we work to modify the aircraft accordingly.
– What’s on the horizon for the aerospace and defense industry, and how will Bell continue to lead the way? Can you tell us more about Bell’s latest projects?
Of course, all eyes are on the pending Future Vertical Lift decision right now. Regardless of that welcome, the industry’s future is speed and range. Not only the speed of the aircraft but also the speed of manufacturing and maintenance. Likewise, range refers to more than flight distance. The range includes overmatch by sharing information among various networks, enhancing situational awareness and ultimately survivability.
– What do you feel is the biggest strength of Bell right now?
Bell reimagines the flight experience, and as a result, we have many “firsts” to our name. We were the first to break the sound barrier, the first to certify a commercial helicopter and the first to bring tiltrotor systems to the market. Now, we continue to define the future of advanced air mobility with innovations that deliver the best experiences for our customers.