The Tokyo Metropolitan Government recently announced the intention to evaluate the AW609 commercial tiltrotor’s capabilities to deliver transport to Ogasawara island.

Leonard say that the characteristics of the world’s first commercial tiltrotor, would deliver outstanding services to reach Ogasawara, approximately 1000 km from Tokyo. Missions would be performed in all weather conditions and with limited infrastructural impact thanks to its helicopter-like footprint.

“The AW609 excels at providing fast point to point transportation at long ranges, whether it is connecting city centres or providing timely access to remote locations. Thanks to 275 knots speed, a 25,000 ft altitude and 1000 nm maximum range, users will benefit from the AW609’s unique ability to fly above adverse weather in the comfort of a pressurized cabin while maintaining rotorcraft vertical take-off and landing / hovering versatility. Modern ‘green’ technology ensures reduced emissions and noise. The AW609 is ideally suited to meet a range of operational requirements in Japan such as passenger transport, EMS, SAR, surveillance, electronic newsgathering and VVIP transport.

An AW609 performing a flight display while in helicopter mode at the Paris Air Show 2007.

With a fleet of over 130 helicopter of various models in Japan today performing a wide variety of civil, public service and military missions, Leonardo has a long-standing in-country presence with a comprehensive support service network that the AW609 will benefit from. The AW609 would support Japan in the introduction of innovative technology ways and solutions to meet connection and public service requirements across the nation, both in normal and in emergency and extreme natural events conditions. The AW609 will be the first civil certified tiltrotor aircraft and is poised to transform private and business travel, emergency medical service (EMS), search and rescue (SAR), offshore operations and patrol, among other uses. The AW609 carries up to nine passengers, flying safely above inclement weather and in known icing conditions.”

The first two production AW609s are currently being assembled in Philadelphia.

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What are the chances this could be adapted for military applications? Instead of jumping in on whatever wins the US Blackhawk replacement competition, this could offer a practical and relatively cheap domestic option.

George Royce

Yes Callum, but we’re missing that all-important ingredient, political will.


I’m not so sure. Look at how much of a fuss has been kicked up about the FSS contract, there seems to be a growing appetite for keeping production in-country. In the wake of covid and Brexit, it’s not implausible that domestic production will gain more support


and cash, we are also missing the green stuff.


Unfortunately Callum, there is no chance at all, it’s IP is for civilian use only, basically because of early joint work with Bell and the agreement that the 609 could only be used a civilian design so as not to compete with the military Bell design.


Fair point. In any case, having looked at it’s carrying capacity, the only helicopters the 609 would actually be suitable to replace are the Army’s Wildcats and remaining Gazelles in the scout and light attack roles (obviously not the Navy’s Wildcats, as there’s no way it would fit in an escort’s hangar).

Is there anything in the IP agreement that prevents AW from developing a successor for military use based on the technology in the 609?


Callum, that would be a technology derivative and the contest stated no technology developed with Bell could be used for military purposes as it would damage Bells sales

Meirion X

The AW609 maybe suitable for carrier AEW, but Not COD, the body is not wide enough to take an F-35 engine.
The V22 would be better for COD and air refuelling, due to the rear door/ramp to easy access to load
a fuel tank inside the plane.

Supportive Bloke

A decision presumably made by the genius who decided that the A380 didn’t need to be able to take cargo through a tail or nose opening door….. That sealed the fate of the A380’s after they are now being wound down for passenger use…. Hinging the tail on something like this that flies at a relatively low speed with lower stresses is not that big a deal. Although I suspect that with an all up take off weight of 7900kg it is too lightweight to be militarised. And the fuel load it can take up isn’t going to be that… Read more »

John Clark

As we have discussed many times, the increased all up weight variant of the V22, (US Navy COD) would be a perfect fit for the Royal Navy.

Add AAR and it would be a huge asset.

5 or 6 embarked on the carrier would be a fantastic force multiplier.


Yes, I’d agree.
What is good, though, is that a manufacturer with a relatively large manufacturing facility in the UK is getting into the tilt rotor game; upscaling from small is a good development approach. If they come up with a larger (Merlin-sized?) version of this in the next 5-10 years, that could be the solution to our future vertical ilft requirements and be a domestic product.
Or am I being overly optimistic again…?

Gavin Gordon

I get the impression that Leonardo only do British legacy aircraft in the UK at Yeovilton, rather than farm out any of their latest products to us under the AugustWestland sub division, etc but would be pleased to be corrected. Certainly, Joe, if we took on another product one would trust the government would insist on local assembly, at least. However, I saw red at the recent (very quiet) news that the Gov may ‘sit on it’s hands’ rather than insist on activating the UK base and investment provisions ‘committed to’ by Softbank when it took over ARM Holdings in… Read more »


“I get the impression that Leonardo only do British legacy aircraft in the UK at Yeovilton, rather than farm out any of their latest products to us under the AugustWestland sub division, etc but would be pleased to be corrected.”

Yes mostly.
They developed the new Lynx – S.Korea ordered it, but i don’t know how much was already done before Agusta came. It is possible they put all EH-101 prod in Yeovil instead of doing it duplicated also in Italy but i am not sure.

4th watch

Yes pathetic and more of the chaotic Non-policy of the Government on so many important business opportunities. The UK’s received wisdom that Government shouldn’t make investment decisions in business is BS.
Many of these decisions relate to Defence. In the UK there is a desperate need for people who have done a real job or come from the armed forces to go into politics and make a difference. We need a different centre-right party or for these people to get involved to change things for the better. Nuff said.


If there was the will investing in big infrastructure projects could include ship, aircraft and ground vehicle projects. Jobs, skills and an end product. The usual question of how to pay for it pops up but as is the case for a lot of HS2 the government creates its own money, the joy of owning your own currency and your own central bank. And as such the government does not need to pay itself off. What needs to be managed after that is inflation and unemployment. There would have to be some serious alpha project managers though to ensure that… Read more »


Sadly I think you are. This interest is very welcome but this is as others below have mentioned effectively its a Gen.1 Tilt Rotor. Worse still this aircraft was supposed to have been in service over 10 years ago (I believe they started taking paper orders in the early years of this century) but because of a long series of development problems has been delayed time and again. Indeed I am surprised (if pleased) to see that two production models are being produced because it had a major accident a couple of years ago while trying to complete its final… Read more »


There won’t be a military version of the AW609 it’s part of the original deal with Bell the 609 can only be used for civilian roles.


The problem for the 609 is that the design first flew in 2003. So like the V22 Osprey, it is behind the times. It suffers the same problem as the V22 does, namely the whole engine and rotor assemble tilts, rather than just the rotor assemble as per the V-280 Valor. This means like the Osprey, the two engine exhausts are around 3 feet from the ground. Therefore, it will kick up a lot of dust etc when taking off or landing vertically. If the aircraft was designed similarly to the Valor and used the tilting rotor concept. It would… Read more »


Thanks, I wasn’t awaare of the limitations. I assume this is because it’s easier to allow fuel and hydraulic lilnes to rotate through 90 degrees to feed an entire engine, than rotate the drive shaft to the rotors from a stationary engine? It’s a start, at least. I think most people here would be happy enough to “settle” for the V-22 or similar design if it gave us an enhanced AEW/AAR/COD capability for the QEs and options for longer and quicker commando/SF insertion, even with the limitations. I hope it develops into something worth getting (or maybe even producing at… Read more »


I totally agree that both the Navy and Airforce could do with a V22 type aircraft to fulfil a plethora of roles. The question is, will Bell look at redesigning the Osprey with lessons learned from the Valor? When the Osprey was first designed, the US Navy had a long list of requirements. One of which, was that it had to be able to taxi on the Wasp class LHD with a minimum of 5 five feet between the prop-rotor tips and the island, with about the same distance between the landing gear and edge of the ship. This placed… Read more »


Can a chinook perform aerial refueling? Of other craft?

Supportive Bloke

The issue is that Chinook is not navalised and there is no fully navalised version of it. Chinook isn’t set up to be a donor aircraft. Theoretically you could use a palletised system VARS but that would need to go through an approval process. Haddon Cave put paid to improvised AAR: for good reason. I guess you are suggesting Chinook for AAR -> F35B? I don’t know how stable the F35D would be in a flight regime that slow 180mph which would be below F35 wing alone stall speed; needs to be very stable for AAR. I would guess it… Read more »


Too slow for miltary fixed wing aircraft.


Why can’t we (Europe) just look at the CV22 and design and build a better one? We have some of the greatest engineering companies in the world Bell Boeing have already paid the upfront costs of making the first tiltrotor, let’s just stand on the shoulders and blood a better one. STOVL carriers and helicopter landing docks are all the rage these days, there must be plenty of buyers out there? Or maybe pinch the rotor balance trick from the Cheyenne, give it a pusher prop for speed and efficiency (the Cheyenne didn’t even need it rotors once it was… Read more »


Why copy a US design, why not modernise a design built in the UK that was ahead of its time? The Rotodyne concept was ahead of its time. Fairey who designed it recognised the limitations a “standard” helicopter faces, i.e. supersonic tip speed equals loss of lift which means it can’t fly any faster. The aircraft was a true compound helicopter, in that it could fly as a normal helicopter, but also when it reached a certain speed remove the drive to the main rotor completely and become an autogyro. Fairey concluded that by removing the drive, the rotors would… Read more »