The development began in the late 1970s with two Bell 212 being converted into 412 prototypes. An advanced four blade main rotor with a smaller diameter replaced the 212's two blade rotor. A Bell 412 prototype first flew in August 1979.
The initial model was certified in January 1981 with the deliveries commencing in the same month. The 412 model was followed by the 412SP (Special Performance) version featuring larger fuel capacity, higher takeoff weight and more optional seating arrangement.
In 1993 the Royal Netherlands Air Force ordered three AB412SP Helicopters to replace the aging Alouette III's that operated for 25 years in the Search and Rescue (SAR) role. All three helicopters are based at Leeuwarden Air Base with 303 SAR Squadron. Because of the mainly yellow colors of the Agusta Bells their nickname is Tweety, named after the cartoon bird.
The main task of "303" is the search and rescue of downed pilots above sea. This task is directly linked to the shooting range "de Vliehors" at the isle of Vlieland. Next to this the helicopters are used to transport patients from the Dutch Wadden isles to the hospital on the mainland and for search and rescue of lost sailors. On board, medical equipment is installed, comprising for example; an oxygen panel, a defibrillator and a heartbeat monitor. If needed, three laying patients can be transported at the same time.
On the skids are inflatable floats attached to keep the AB412 afloat in case of an emergency. Also a special life raft is onboard that can be dropped from the helicopter. This raft gives room to ten people. On the nose is a "night sun" high power search light attached that can be operated by the pilots.