Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation has confirmed it will open a business office in the UAE this year.

No official date has been set for the opening of the firm’s first Middle East base and the scale of the property is to be confirmed. The news was shared at the defence exhibition IDEX, after a significant helicopter sale was alluded to.

“We’re still trying to work out the details surrounding real estate but it will certainly happen this year,” says Samir Mehta, president of Sikorsky Military Systems. “The intent is to have full-time Sikorsky employees and personnel at a leadership level in Abu Dhabi.”

In 2007, Sikorsky was contracted to supply 1,200 of the latest Black Hawk helicopters to the US Army over the following 25 years – 600 of which have already been delivered. Since that deal, the firm has sold approximately 70 units to the UAE, with another large order signed.  Details of the new contract were due to be shared on 19 February, but the announcement has been delayed until further notice.

The new office will be established by veteran executives moving into the region, but Mehta is eyeing expansion through local talent.

 “Our longer term objective is to have an Emirati base of management executives to staff this new office,” he told MEED.

Given the previous sales and the successful joint venture with Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala, Sikorsky is confident it will attract local staff over time.

“We’re very proud of the joint venture we have between Sikorsky, Mubadala and Lockheed Martin, which forms AMMROC. You have two US-based companies with a strong tradition of skills and expertise in the military marketplace but also a great partner here in the UAE who understands how to grow through attracting local talent.”

A substantial side benefit is a greater transfer of skills in the aerospace industry to an emerging market, as well as a localisation of support, according to Mehta.

Sikorsky’s older business model was to sell aircraft, wait for the next proposal and hopefully get another opportunity to sell again, admits Mehta.  “This is more about long-term customer relationships. We’ll become more familiar with the region and with evolving requirements here.”