The U.S. Navy has selected Leonardo’s TH-119 as its new training helicopter, the company announced Monday night. A military variant of the civil AW119, the new military trainer—the TH-73A—will replace the service’s existing fleet of Bell TH-57s. The initial contract is for 32 aircraft with spares, support, and training and is valued at nearly $176.5 million. Subsequent individual year contracts are expected to bring total deliveries to 130 aircraft by 2024, with a value of $648.1 million.
Leonardo had been competing with Bell and Airbus Helicopters for the deal and those companies had offered variants of its single-engine model 407 and light twin H135, respectively. Leonardo said the delivery of the helicopters “is expected to be completed in October 2021.” The aircraft will be assembled at Leonardo’s AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corp.
William Hunt, managing director of Leonardo Helicopters Philadelphia, said, “Our plan since day one has been to offer the U.S. Navy the training capabilities they asked for, without compromise. We are honored to deliver on that promise, build the new fleet in Philadelphia and maintain it from Milton, Florida.”
In September 2019, Leonardo had promised to build a 100,000-sq-ft facility in Milton that would support the estimated 130 helicopters the Navy requires for its primary training mission. The new facility would be built in partnership with the Santa Rosa County Economic Development Office, as well as Space Florida, in the 269-acre Whiting Aviation Park adjacent to the air station where all helicopter pilots for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard currently are trained. Envisioned as a full-service Part 145 repair station, the new facility would offer 24/7 service, including spare parts, warranty processing and renewal, technical and product engineering, and component and airframe repair.
“The new Leonardo TH-73A helicopters are the cornerstone of AHTS (advanced helicopter training system), which is the planned replacement to address the capability and capacity gaps of the current aging TH-57 Sea Ranger helicopter training platform,” said Capt. Todd St. Laurent, Naval Undergraduate Flight Training Systems (PMA-273) Program Manager. “The TH-73A will provide a modern helicopter training platform that will serve rotary and tiltrotor training requirements into the foreseeable future. These new helicopters will ensure the Navy has capacity to train several hundred aviation students per year at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field in Milton.”
According to the Navy, the new helicopter will meet advanced rotary-wing and intermediate tiltrotor training requirements for the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard through 2050.
In July 2019, Leonardo announced that the TH-119 received IFR supplemental type certification from the FAA. The TH-119 is equipped with Genesys Aerosystems avionics and a Pratt & Whitney PT6B engine. It is based on the AW119 civil helicopter and features an adjustable observer seat that provides a full view of the cockpit, reinforced skids with removable shoes, and has the ability for “hot” pressure refueling without shutting the engine down.
All AW119s sold worldwide are manufactured in Philadelphia. The AW119 is in service in 40 countries and has been selected by military, government, and parapublic customers, including the Portuguese Air Force, New York City Department of Environmental Protection Police, and others across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America.
“On the cusp of celebrating nearly 40 years of operating in Philadelphia, Leonardo is thrilled the U.S. Navy has selected our TH-119-based offer and us as a local and long term partner," said Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumo. "We are proud to be a core contributor to the future of U.S. defense.”
The TH-73A contract is the second big U.S. defense win for Leonardo in recent years. In 2018, partnering with Boeing, Leonardo was awarded a $2.4 billion contract for 84 MH-139 medium twin helicopters from the U.S. Air Force to replace its fleet of Bell UH-1Ns used to provide security at the nation’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) bases and transport U.S. government and security forces. The MH-139s are scheduled to become operational next year.