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Bell 212: The Helicopter That Crashed and Killed Iran's President

May 21, 2024
2 min read
Bell 212: The Helicopter That Crashed and Killed Iran's President

A Bell 212 helicopter, a civilian variant of the iconic UH-1N "Twin Huey" used during the Vietnam War, crashed in Iran on Sunday while carrying Iran's President and foreign minister. 

The crash, attributed to mountain fog, killed the country's President, foreign minister, and several local officials. 

Developed in the late 1960s by Bell Helicopter (now Bell Textron), the Bell 212 was designed for the Canadian military as an improvement over the UH-1 Iroquois. 

The key upgrade was replacing the single engine with twin turboshaft engines, allowing for increased carrying capacity.

Source: FT
Source: FT

The Bell 212 serves as a utility helicopter, as evidenced by its "UH" designation, which signifies its multi-purpose functionality. 

This adaptability allows it to be configured for various tasks, including transporting passengers, deploying firefighting equipment, carrying cargo, or even mounting weaponry.

The Iranian helicopter was configured to transport government officials. 

Bell Textron currently offers the upgraded Subaru Bell 412, which is suitable for diverse applications such as police work, medical transport, troop deployment, energy industry operations, and firefighting.

According to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency's certification documents, it can carry up to 15 people.

The Bell 212 is popular with non-military organizations as well. 

Examples include Japan's Coast Guard, US law enforcement and fire departments, and Thailand's national police. 

While the exact number of Bell 212s in Iran's government fleet is unknown, FlightGlobal's 2024 World Air Forces directory indicates a total of 10 helicopters for the air force and navy combined.

Under the Shah's rule, Iran was a significant purchaser of Bell and Agusta helicopters, becoming the leading military helicopter power in the Middle East, according to reports.

The current Iranian fleet includes the Agusta Bell AB-212, an Italian-built naval variant, as reported by IISS.

Based on limited information, experts estimate the crashed helicopter's age to be around 40-50 years old.

Following the 1979 revolution and subsequent isolation, Iran has managed to sustain its civil and military aviation fleets by acquiring smuggled parts and reverse-engineering existing technology.

The late President Raisi, linked to the 1988 mass executions, was seen as a potential successor to Ali Khamenei and a candidate for the position of the third Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic.

Three years ago, in spring 2021, amid widespread dissatisfaction among Iranian citizens with the electoral process under Khamenei's administration, Raisi was elected President.

He received the lowest percentage of votes ever recorded for an Iranian president. He succeeded Hassan Rouhani, who had promised to restore "credibility" to the presidency.

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