The government of Austria signed a deal with Italy on December 20 to procure 18 Leonardo AW169/169M helicopters, plus spares, training, and support, with an option for a further 18. The decision to buy the militarized version of the AW169 was announced in September 2020 by Austrian defense minister Klaudia Tanner.
The helicopters will replace Austria’s long-serving fleet of Sud SE3160 and SA316 Alouette IIIs, the first of which entered service with the Bundesheer (armed forces) in 1967. To be delivered from 2022—in time to meet the Alouette’s planned 2023 out-of-service date—the new machines are reported to comprise 12 full-military specification AW169MAs and six AW169Bs that will primarily be used for training but will be available for operational duties if needed. The current Alouette III fleet is headquartered with the Verbindungshubschrauberstaffel at Aigen im Ennstal, which operates several detachments around the country. Training is conducted by a dedicated unit at Tulln-Langenlebarn.
In the meantime, the initial two AW169s delivered to the Italian army have completed 1,000 flying hours since the first was handed over in July 2020. Designated UH-169B in Italian military service, the helicopters are preparing crews for the future transition to the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), which is based on the AW169. The LUH program aims to supplant the A109, AB206, AB205, AB212, and AB412 in Italian army service, with the first 15 due for delivery in 2023.