At DSEI 2019, Leonardo displayed its latest-generation medium-lift AW149 helicopter.

The firm say that the aircraft is rapidly configurable to meet a wide range of military missions:

“Troop transport/troop insertion (carrying up to 16 fully-equipped troops or up to 19 passengers), cargo re-supply/external lift, CASEVAC/MEDEVAC, search and rescue (SAR), Special Forces operations and combat SAR, Command and Control (C2), and close air support.”

Leonardo is pitching the twin-engine AW149 to customers around the world which are considering replacing their fleets of ageing multi-mission helicopters and it could be an ideal solution for the UK say the firm.

According to a release:

“In line with this strategy, the AW149 is designed to meet the operational needs of military commanders with excellent levels of safety and survivability and attractive through-life costs. Features such as 4-axis autopilot, advanced open system avionics architecture and large sliding doors for ease of access for troops and equipment make the AW149 an ideal candidate to replace legacy platforms as they go out of service.

The twin engine type features excellent hot & high performance and a max cruise speed (ISA, MTOW, SL) of 287 km/h 155 kt.”

According to a specification sheet:

“The multi-role military helicopter can carry a variety of armaments such as: 2 x 7.62 mm/2 x 12.7 mm machines guns (internal), 2 x 20 mm gun pods, 2 x 12.7 mm gun pods, 2 x 2.75” rocket launchers and 2 x ATM launchers. Tailored payload and weapon system solutions are available thanks to the modern open architecture design. The AW149 is designed to carry a host of weapons and stores on external carriers and on the window gun mount.”

Presented with the aircraft at DSEI 2019 is an integrated replica sensor suite which includes the Osprey radar, SAGE electronic support measures (ESM) and a MAIR missile warner. The Leonardo sensors are representative offerings forming part of an integrated Defensive Aids Suite (DAS).

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Joe16
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Joe16

Would be a potential replacement for the Puma, I presume, if we still have any? I very rarely see medium airlift these days, photos are all either Chinook or Wildcat (which I believe is smaller). I’m deliberately Keeping Merlin out of the equation, because I think they should all be maritime platforms; if they’re so expensive that we can only get them in limited numbers then best put them where they’re best suited.

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

Very much so. 33 and 230 Sqns, with 28 as the OCU.

Lee H
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Lee H

Hi daniele
Hope all is well
I have been at DSEI all week, great event – lots to see.
However, I also encountered a civilian helicopter sprayed green with some add on’s.
I have never been a big supporter of the Puma Mk2, however as an operator I know which aircraft I would rather get in when rounds start rattling around.
Great concept, but the Blackhawk is still – leaps and bounds ahead of the rest, this doesn’t even come close.
To caveat however, as an SF insertion platform…..

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

Lee. Morning.

Thanks for this observation. 657 was chopped and never replaced as far as I’m aware. There was a programme to replace with a small number of converted Wildcats diverted from the 34 army order, which seems to have vanished.

Have you had a look at the southern end of Credenhill lately on the latest 2018 images on GE, next to the old 8 Flights pad? I’m curious.

DaveyB
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DaveyB

They’re operating on Afghan.

Herodotus
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Manufactured in Britain…an ideal aircraft for a number of military applications. Should be the mainstay of AAC…and providing all round support for the RAF. I have championed this aircraft for the last 6 years…it makes sense in terms of its affordability, its multi-role capability and future development possibilities!

Glass Half Full
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Glass Half Full

However, it might not make sense for long term strategic capabilities, if MoD are looking at what develops from the US Future Vertical Lift program, for AAC, RAF and and perhaps FAA in due course. Developments from the technology demonstration Bell V-280 Valor and SB>1 Defiant programs may provide sea change capabilities for rapid, long distance deployment. FVL may get too expensive and/or delayed for UK use (or perhaps isn’t even under consideration), but especially if the UK sees itself plugging in alongside the US to address a potential Tier 1 confrontation in Norway or the Baltics, then FVL is… Read more »

Cam
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Cam

What should replace the gazelles?

Harry Bulpit
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Harry Bulpit

Wildcat is a good replacement for gazelle. Frankly thats what it should be used for.

DaveyB
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DaveyB

As much as I believe the Puma2 was the wrong decision at the time, I’m struggling to find the rationale behind replacing it with the AW149 or the Blackhawk? The Blackhawk, AW149 or NH90 are good helicopters but how are they any better than the Puma? All of these helicopter have about the same payload, range and speed, Where is the advancement? The US Army has the right idea with its future medium lift competition. Setting the aircraft’s minimum speed at 250kts was genius, it means that the companies had to push the boundaries and come up with a solution.… Read more »

Herodotus
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You are forgetting the key factor…price! There is little indication that we are going to acquire even a small number of Tilt-Rotors for our carriers. I can’t see the MOD funding exotic fast choppers!

John Clark
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John Clark

It does seem to tick a lot of boxes, I would however say that with the relatively small number of medium lift helicopters required, we need to consider maintenance costs and the maximum flexibility of a type, to fully utilise them. To me, that means buying another 25 ( fully marinised ) MK4 Merlin’s for the RAF to replace the Puma. I know they are at the top end of medium lift, but it makes a lot of sense to have a ramp, carry more troops and kit and deploy to sea when necessary. The fleet would cost more to… Read more »

DaveyB
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DaveyB

According to Bell, their V280 should be at the same price as a MH60 Blackhawk, so that’s cheaper than a Merlin. This was another of the US Army’s requirements, in that the replacement aircraft should be about the same price as the existing aircraft. The US Amy’s Future Vertical Lift – Medium is also being paid for by the US Navy. They have a requirement to replace their Seahawks, but also to replace the USMC’s Hueys. However, wins the competition between Bell and Boeing/Sikorsky will have work for at least the next 20 years. There are over 4000 aircraft that… Read more »

Pacman27
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Pacman27

I hope this isn’t being considered by the uk We need to standardise on Merlin and get that fleet doubled, then focus on a tilt rotar capability. I also have no problem with jumping the Merlin bit and going straight to next Gen. We cant afford another type, we need to replace the Gazelle and Puma fleet and I would like to see this done with Merlin. We then push an all Merlin fleet into the RN, replace the Gazelles with the RN’s wildcats and the RAF are left with chinook. At the end of the day its a joint… Read more »

Cam
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Cam

Doesn’t the Navy need the wildcat, big Merlins aren’t always suited for Navy missions.

Steve
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Steve

The issue is wildcats don’t have tipping sonar or the endurance to do sub hunting, which means their usefulness in a shooting war is fairly limited to dropping torpedos /deathcharges after the frigates sonars find the subs.

Steve
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Steve

What i don’t get is why we haven’t invested in missile based torpedeos, removing the need for the helicopter.

Pacman27
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Pacman27

Quite possibly Cam, but this was the RN’s original plan and the fact is Merlin is world class and cheap, and we don’t have enough of them and Wildcat is massively expensive. My proposal is a way of increasing capability and like all things it is a compromise, but ultimately as its a joint helicopter force the ability remains to role as required. one other point is that the RN in particular need to get a Scheibel UAV in service in massive numbers and I do have an image in my mind that Boxer will have four Quadcopter on its… Read more »

Harry Bulpit
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Harry Bulpit

Wildcat is a useful aircraft. Its great for fighting of light vessels in the littoral environment.

Pacman27
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Pacman27

Not denying that Harry and that can still be the case. I am proposing shuffling the cards to get more Merlins as that is the sweet spot

You can buy almost 2 Merlins for 1 wildcat. It really is about resource management for me and we can replace puma and gazelle with Merlins if we move the wildcat into the gazelle role

Cam
Guest
Cam

should we replace the gazelles and pumas with a single type to save money? I’m not sure this is the right fit, but what would be? But these could secure lots of work in the UK factory for years!.

But No doubt we will lose another huge chunk of our helicopters in the near future with this decision.

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

Cor, if only.

Gazelle is no longer a front line type and will probably be replaced by a COMO type, or nothing at all.

Puma. I’d buy more Merlins but the RAF no longer operates the type and did not like it so some say.

whlgrubber
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whlgrubber

Probably built in Italy. Leonardo wheel this out at every show. Its never sold not even in its civilian guise. A new approach is needed, anybody remember that troop carrier in Starship Trooper? get designing Leo !!

Herodotus
Guest

Not true…AW149 is operated by Egypt and Thailand!

Herodotus
Guest

Oh and its commercial version, the AW189, is operated by numerous organisations/countries. Bristow use them for offshore oilfield work and the coast guard!

whlgrubber
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whlgrubber

5 to thailand and a proposed 20 to egypt. remember the Lynx sale to egypt?. The 149 is very much a civilian helo painted green.!! Sorry i just dont rate it. and as for manufacture set up in the UK. i wouldnt trust Leo, but then i did work at yeovil for many years

l

James Fennell
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James Fennell

The 149 is a great platform, developed from the 139, which was itself intended as contender for the Huey replacement market. Its very similar to the 189, which is a civilianised version and used by HM Coastguard for SAR. However as far as UK is concerned the Puma upgrade programme and transfer of Merlins to the RN probably put paid to any new medium weight helicopters in the near term, and the RAF and RN will probably want to wait for the next generation of technology and combine Merlin and Puma replacement into one requirement. Of course a niche might… Read more »

Jonathan
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Jonathan

Leonardo have made it clear if the uk buys this to replace puma, it will move the production line from Italy to the UK. Thats really important as we need an exportable medium lift for protecting sovereign rotor. The two lines we have at the moment are both niche navy rotors. The AW149, is in all ways better than a previous generation medium lift rotor like the Blackhawk, is in itself in line to be the next US medium rotor and has already been exported to 2 other nations. It’s a new but tested airframe, that sits in the exact… Read more »

DaveyB
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DaveyB

Why is the AW149 better than the Blackhawk? Does it have the built in armour protection for the tail rotor drive line like the Blackhawk?

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

It’s got greater range and carriers a greater load and is a touch faster. It’s also got some of the best crash protection out there. The Blackhawk is getting on to be a 50 year old design, why would go for a fifty year old airfame design over a 21 century one. It’s also armoured has self sealing tanks all the defence aid expected. It’s not a civilian helicopter painted green as some have commented, it is designed as a military rotor and the civilian version the 189 came into well after the 149. The big difference between the Blackhawk… Read more »

r cripes
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r cripes

We are very short of helos for the AAC, especially medium lift. For a fonce of 6 combat brigades, which the UK will have, the US Army would provide 460 helos, 240 of them front line. Leaving aside the Gazelles and Bell 212s, we have just 133, I. e. about 30% of the necessary establishment. And 49 of them are not necessarily available to the AAC, the 24 Puma’s are tasked by the RAF and first call on the 25 Merlin HC4s is 3 Cdo Bde. The Government is conning its way round the issue as always, with the SDSR… Read more »

Herodotus
Guest

Jonathan and James, I completely agree with your support for the AW149. Getting the production line in this country with an army/Raf order would be very good news!

DaveyB
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DaveyB

So would you say its as good or on par with the NH90?

James Fennell
Guest
James Fennell

I agree, 149 is a specifically designed military platform, I should have made that clear too. It was in the running for the Polish SF C-SAR buy, but in the end they went for Blackhawks assembled by PZL and bought Merlin’s for the navy from Leonardo/Sokol – which was probably politically motivated to spread the work around Polish industry.