The Italian Ministry of Defense has decided to award aerospace group Leonardo a €337 million contract to develop and supply 15 AW169 Light Utility Helicopters in advanced multirole (Multiruolo Avanzato, M.A.) configuration for the Italian Army.
The decision to proceed, announced in an April 15 decision memo by Segredifesa, the defense ministry’s procurement directorate, commits the ministry to a nine year payment schedule. The deal is not subject to Italy’s 22% value added tax, the memo noted.
A spokesman for Leonardo could not say when the contract signature is expected, and referred queries to the Italian Army. However, the Segredifesa memo lists 2020 as the contract’s first year, even though the first payment is only due in 2021, so it is likely that it will be signed this year. The contract will run until 2028, with peak funding between 2021 and 2027.
This procurement follows a previous contract, awarded to Leonardo on Dec. 20, 2019 but not made public, for the supply of the first two AW-169 Light Utility Helicopters in Addestratore Basico Commerciale (basic commercial training, A.B.C.) configuration.
The AW169MA is derived from the AW169M, the military variant of the AW169 commercial helicopter unveiled at the 2010 Farnborough Air Show, of which the Italian Financial Police (Guardia di Finanza) ordered 22 units in 2018. The first was delivered in November 2019, and deliveries are continuing.
The AW169MA version for the Army will be fitted with skids, instead of the wheeled landing gear of the Financial Police version, and will be qualified to an Alternate Gross Weight of 5,100 kg, according to Segredifesa’s memo, instead of 4,800 kg of the current version. It will also be equipped with lateral stores supports which, as illustrated in images eleased by Leonardo, will be capable of carrying rocket and gun pods as well as fuel tanks and other stores.
The Italian Army plans to procure additional AW169MAs to replace its fleet of ageing AB206, AB205, AB212 and AB412 combat support helicopters, so as to solve obsolescence issues and to standardize its inventory to reduce support and training costs.
The follow-on contract awarded last week also includes two years of integrated logistic support with a guarantee of 400 flight hours per year for each of the two training helicopters, 432 hours of year of simulator training of Italian Army flight crew at the company’s Training Academy, and further training of six pilots as instructors.
An option allows the support package to be extended for an additional four years at a cost of €10 million.
-- April 20 @ 20:00 CET: corrected headline to reflect that Italy has not yet ordered these helicopters.