Leonardo presented the AW249 next-generation “exploration and escort helicopter” at Eurosatory in Paris today during an official ceremony attended by industry representatives, Italian Defence officials, and international delegations, according to a press release.

Developed in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Defence, the AW249, designated AH-249A NEES (Nuovo Elicottero da Esplorazione e Scorta) and known as the ‘Fenice,’ is described by Leonardo as the only Western clean-sheet combat helicopter designed to meet emerging operational requirements for the next 30+ years.

The company stated that the AW249 leverages capabilities and technologies not available elsewhere today.

The helicopter features an open architecture that allows for significant growth and system adaptation “to meet market demands”. Leonardo reported that the AW249 offers high performance in speed, range, power margin, payload, Hot&High conditions, and manoeuvrability for nap-of-the-earth flight.

The AW249, they say, is designed to be fully integrated and interoperable across air, land, sea, space, and cyber domains.

AW249 static display

Key features include an advanced large-area display human-machine interface, touch screen/gesture recognition devices in the cockpit, and Leonardo’s sophisticated Battle Management System.

According to the company, the AW249 can perform missions such as aerial escort, close air support, close combat attack, and air interdiction. It can also act as an information acquisition element of a C4 system (ISTAR), scanning territory and identifying ground units for its own use or to disseminate information to a Command & Control Centre.

The AW249 is equipped with a flexible weapon system, including guided and unguided 70mm rockets, air-to-air infrared guided missiles, air-to-ground radio frequency or fibre optic guided missiles, and a 20mm 3-barrel Gatling gun. Leonardo also noted the helicopter’s survivability features, such as an advanced Integrated Defensive Aids Suite (IDAS), armoured seats, ballistic tolerant fuel tanks, crashworthiness, and low detectability.

The helicopter is designed for shipboard operational capability and can operate in extreme conditions. Leonardo stated that the AW249 is being developed with digital simulation capabilities and state-of-the-art technical support and training services, including high-fidelity mission simulation, virtual reality, and prescriptive maintenance via data gathering and analysis.

AW249 formation static display 24001 & 24003

“The AW249 epitomises the key winning factors and enablers we’ve identified in our defence and security strategy,” said Lorenzo Mariani, Co-General Manager of Leonardo. “We’re confident the AW249’s characteristics and possibilities represent a highly competitive value proposition for the international market.”

“With the AW249 we’ve reached the top, and possibly even pushed the boundaries beyond expectations, in our military rotorcraft know-how,” added Gian Piero Cutillo, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters. “The collaboration with the Italian Army, its forward-thinking guidance and clear requirements were fundamental for this endeavour.”

With a maximum take-off weight of 8.3 tons, the AW249 is intended to replace the Italian Army’s AW129 fleet. An AW249 prototype completed its maiden flight in summer 2022. Four prototypes have been built, with two currently involved in performance, system integration, and payload testing, and two more set to begin testing soon.

Leonardo expects the production contract to be finalised soon, with deliveries to the Italian Army beginning in 2027. The company indicated that the AW249 will also be available for the export market due to its capabilities and modern design.

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Grizzler
Grizzler (@guest_827739)
8 days ago

So…are we gunna be buying this instead then…

liam
liam (@guest_827741)
8 days ago
Reply to  Grizzler

A modern effective system? Are you crazy do you know our defence procurement industry? we will just “upgrade” what we have for double or triple the price for half the capability.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli (@guest_827746)
8 days ago
Reply to  liam

We already did, Apache E.
No idea of capability comparables but the army are happy with it.

klonkie
klonkie (@guest_828020)
7 days ago

Hiya Mate , I wonder now much of a market exists for this kite. Pretty challenging competing with AH 64, with American dominating NATO equipment procurement.

I thought it would have some stealth design (remember the US RAH-66 programme in the early 2000s?)That may have delivered some competitive advantage to Apache?

Promising to see some on order for the Italian Army.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli (@guest_828081)
7 days ago
Reply to  klonkie

Morning mate.

Yes, I’d assume so. That was the Commanche I think?

Didn’t you SAs develop something too?

Family ok?

klonkie
klonkie (@guest_828249)
6 days ago

Hi DM. Yep, that was the Commanche programme. SA did indeed build a similar thing called the Rooivalk ( Red Falcon) for a whopping production run of 12! Lots of talk of export opportunities to the Middle East etc. Nothing came of it. I suspect the USA had something to do with that. They also developed a laser guided Anti armour missile system for the Rooivalk, called Mokopa (Black Mamba). The SAAF never bought it (defence budget cuts). I believe the the Algerians bought about a hundred for their Lynx fleet, Family having a ball of a time in your… Read more »

Exroyal.
Exroyal. (@guest_828125)
6 days ago
Reply to  liam

The 64e a much more capable airframe for me. I don’t think you will see anybody ditch their 64s for this. Italian made so no surprise they are buying it. Not sure it is not another Tiger in the making. The one advantage it has over the 64 is they are declaring it shipboard capable. The proof is in the pudding and the detail on that. IE what sea state it can operate in up to. We have operated 64 of flat tops in the past. With a degree of success. The problem is the sea has to be flat… Read more »

james fearn
james fearn (@guest_828138)
6 days ago
Reply to  Exroyal.

Positives of the 249: better all round flying performance. Handling (AW/Leornardo rotors fly extremely well from experience), hot/high engine power and more importantly transmission rating. Could be built here and probably cheaper. Apache: we own it – can be rebuilt to higher (E) standard and we know the support/train req inside and out. I am surprised we’re not sticking with the RTM/Aneto in the E. Maybe because the French now own it? It’s more powerful than the GE option. Not needed in normal ops as transmission is the limiting factor but comes in handy with engine out or when hot/high… Read more »

DaveyB
DaveyB (@guest_828146)
6 days ago
Reply to  james fearn

The E’s were bought direct from the US Army. So it comes at the US Army spec’. From memory the only bits we’ve added of consequence is through the radio/crypto side of things. This was purely to keep down costs. Although the 249 is a development of the 149 Mangusta. That also incorporates lessons learned from the Turkish variant. It won’t have the same capabilities as Apache, due to the lack of the mast mounted radar. Meaning Apache has better situational awareness. But can also see and track targets much further. Which is important when faced with a plethora of… Read more »

Exroyal.
Exroyal. (@guest_828175)
6 days ago
Reply to  DaveyB

The Es were not bought from the US army. Our existing fleet were flown in pairs to Mesa in C17 and reworked to E standard. 50 in total. 16 others were retired.

Exroyal.
Exroyal. (@guest_828172)
6 days ago
Reply to  james fearn

I think you will find all our Apaches are the E variant. They old ones were flown to Brize Norton in pairs, put in a C17 flown to Mesa. They were stripped and rebuilt to E standard. So why would we want to rebuild them again. They only reached FOC recently when the last ones arrived back from the US.

james fearn
james fearn (@guest_828182)
6 days ago
Reply to  Exroyal.

Hadn’t realised it was done so quickly. Thanks for the update

Exroyal.
Exroyal. (@guest_828186)
6 days ago
Reply to  james fearn

It was not that quick. Signed of in 2016 money and political terms. First deliveries in 2022. Last early this year. I want to say over 2 billion contract.

Exroyal.
Exroyal. (@guest_828191)
6 days ago
Reply to  james fearn

The Dutch are doing the same as we speak.

Angus
Angus (@guest_827790)
7 days ago

Those Roman’s certainly make a good looking Helo 😎

Mark
Mark (@guest_829411)
2 days ago

Like an ugly Apache wannabe 🙂

Last edited 2 days ago by Mark