Leonardo has delivered its 1,000th AW139 helicopter.

The company say that the event represents a historic achievement as the AW139 is their most important helicopter programme in the last 15 years.

“The 1,000th machine of this model was delivered to Italy’s Guardia di Finanza during an official celebration which was held at Leonardo’s plant in Vergiate (Varese – Italy), in the presence of institutional representatives, customers, partners and suppliers, as well as the company’s top management and employees.

The AW139’s first flight dates back to the beginning of 2001. The helicopter boasts orders of over 1,100 units from more than 280 customers in over 70 countries on all continents. The aircraft has shown extraordinary levels of reliability and operational capabilities with almost 2.5 million flight hours recorded since the first delivery took place at the beginning of 2004.

Data of use testify the extreme versatility of the AW139 which satisfies any market need: more than 30% for public utility tasks such as search and rescue and air ambulance, law enforcement, firefighting, disaster relief; over 30% for offshore transport; around 20% for military tasks; the rest account for VIP, institutional and corporate transport missions.”

Leonardo’s CEO, Alessandro Profumo, said:

“What we celebrate today is much more than the success of a product or of a company. It is the global affirmation of an asset of our entire country. Thanks to the commitment, knowledge and professional skills present at Leonardo and to our products, like the AW139, our host of technologies and history of flight innovation – these all form important pillars of our industrial capabilities. The AW139 is a striking example of the role that Leonardo plays and intends to continue to have in the world. All our values are reflected in the AW139: continuous innovation, internationalisation, proximity to the market and to the customer, and the enhancement of human resources.”

Leonardo Helicopters’ Managing Director, Gian Piero Cutillo, added:

“With the AW139 the company has been able to create an extraordinary programme with international roots and with its global success this has allowed us to reach the top of the industry’s world helicopter market. Without the self-denial, the preparation and the passion of workers from different generations and nationalities who believed in and worked on its development, and who still follow it in its operational path by constantly confronting the market and customers, all this would not have been possible.”

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Interesting to see these don’t have Berp tips, but an ordinary swept tip. I wonder why Leonardo don’t make more use of the Berp tips as it makes the blade more efficient in the hover and in certain flight regimes?


I wonder how many parts are british made?


I know the main rotor gearbox is made by Westlands, the tail rotor gearbox is made by Hitachi though. The aircraft is assembled in one of four plants across the World and there are lots of the aircraft’s parts made all over from Leonardo’s holdings.


the gearbox, some avionics and links to the tail sets. I’m not sure who builds the tail and innards, otherwise it’s the US and in Italy. Why would there be anymore than that since the forces and consequently.gov.UK weren’t interested and just wanted to develop the lynx on grounds of training, commonality of parts etc and the thought that exports that help reduce unit costs would be harmed if the uk moved away from lynx. Was that a good idea? Pros & Cons whichever way you look at it.

Mike Saul

With the benefit of hindsight would it have not been better to develop a naval version of AW139 instead of Wildcat for the RN and adopted the AW139M for the British army

The cost of Wildcat is high and it to date has few export sales, therefore it was poor investment given the constraints of the UK defence budget


Would have preferred the MOD to concentrate on developing the AW149 as an all round military helicopter. Recycle the Army Wild cats for the Navy!


I think they developed Wildcat hoping it would match the success of the Lynx. Unfortunately there is just too much competition in the current market. From US offerings and NH90. I’m not sure if developing an AW139 for the navy would have been any cheaper than the AW149.
There are still a lot of options for the Wildcat to win export orders though so who knows, South Korea could put in a big order along with Malaysia, Thailand, Poland, New Zealand, I’m sure there is more.

Mike Saul

My point of argument is based on the P8/737 example. A proven civilian platform modified to military requirements the development, support and maintenance of a such is considerably cheaper than developing, supporting and maintaining a bespoke military platform.
I hope wildcat does achieve more exports, but given the market and competition I don’t hold any great hopes.
So from an economic point of view the Wildcat has been failure and will probably be the last helicopter to be mainly designed and manufactured in the UK.


There is always a problem converting civilian aircraft to military, conversely do it the other way round is notan issue. If we take helicopters the material spec for components is significantly higher than civilian. For example a military electrical will be environmentally protected and still meet rigorous standards, its one of the reasons they cost so much. Then the structure around the undercarriage. It will be designed to allow the undercarriage to meet a specific sink rate, so will be considerably beefed up. This all goes to add additional weight, but more specifically cost. This will be some of the… Read more »


I don’t really get the wildcat and the decisions around it, as it seems that it is not ideal for either task it has gained. It feels like it was purely a job creation activity, which is the wrong way to make military / defense decisions.


The problem was the Lynx in Afghan. Due to height above sea level and anytime the heat went over 35 degrees C, it was hopeless. The Air Filters didn’t work, so the engines quickly wore out and they just didn’t have the power to do anything useful. Hence the Army’s requirement for a utility helicopter that could operate in Afghan which became the Wildcat. The Future Lynx was born a long time before that, but the Army made an urgent request to Westlands/Leonardo for a quick delivery. The Wildcat is supposed to be better than the Super Lynx, with more… Read more »


My feeling is the wildcat was designed for battlefield survalliance / scout role, a role that is now taken by UAV. They are too small (can’t carry enough troops/gear) and have too low endurance to fit other roles that they are now being pushed into. It was yesterday’s thinking, rather than gearing for tomorrow’s war.

Mike Saul

A military variant of the AW139 already exists designed and built to “exacting” military requirements.


Am I right in thinking the original design was done by Westland, or is my memory playing tricks. I seem to remember them coming up with something like this which was initially unsuccessful until they were taken over and it was redeveloped by Agusta.


I’m sure they designed something similar years back in like 89, it was based of the lynx but bigger and called Westland 20 or something, there was a millitary Tactical version proposed that could carry nearly 20 odd fully armed soldiers far more than lynx or wildcat obv, I wonder why they didnt make wildcat a little bit bigger.


Essentially a weight demarcation dispute between the RAF and the AAF.This is the main reason the wildcat was chosen and is too small to be really useful and far too expensive for a light utility


One thing missed about the Wildcat is that its tail no longer folds like the Lynx. Doesn’t matter so much to the RN with its Merlin and Chinook capable decks and hangars. But it could cost Wildcat in the export market.

r cummings

Yes, Wildcat was a compromise beween RN and AAC weight requirements and, like most compromise designs, it can’t be all things to all men. The RN came off worst, as Wildcat has limited capability as an ASW naval helo due to what it can fit and lift. For the Army though, it fits well in the combat reconnaissance role, albeit that it is on the expensive side. It is interesting that the US Army, which has used the Apache in this role, is going to swap it for a dedicated combat recon helo, so the AAC is ahead of the… Read more »

r cummings

Ref the AW139, it is a light medium utility helo and a bit on the small side to do the medium utility role done by Puma, NH-90, etc. Where it would be useful is Suffiield, Kenya, Brunei and similar overseas commitments and deployments. It is large enough to lift an infantry section, transport stores, do medivac and so on, and has the hot and high lift needed. It would be a good successor for the Bell 212s and much more capable than the old Gazelles. I saw somewhere that the Coast Guard are to replace 10 AW139s with a longer-range… Read more »