In a ceremony yesterday at its U.S. headquarters in Philadelphia, Leonardo Helicopters delivered to the U.S. Navy the first TH-73A training helicopter. The model is intended to replace the Bell TH-57 Sea Ranger, which has been in service for more than half a century.
Leonardo was awarded the contract for an initial 32 of the light single-engine helicopters, a version of its civil AW119, in January 2020. The company has firm orders to deliver 68 TH-73As, with a total requirement of 130 through 2024. Fourteen airframes are currently under assembly at its facility at Northeast Philadelphia Airport.
Before an audience of elected officials, military personnel, Leonardo executives, and employees, vice-admiral Kenneth Whitesell, chief of Naval Air Forces, accepted the first of the type on behalf of the military. “This aircraft is going to be the centerpiece for our advanced helicopter training system,” he noted, describing the TH-73A as “providing the most capable and advanced training platform to prepare student aviators to combat and defeat our adversaries.”
In describing the company's culture, Clyde Woltman, president of Leonardo's U.S. division, noted, “Without leadership who have consistently listened to and supported us every step of the way, this milestone first delivery—18 months after contract award during a global pandemic and with a 90-day protest-driven stop-work order—could not have happened.”