Leonardo Wins Navy Trainer Helicopter Competition

By Rich Abott | January 14, 2020
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Leonardo’s TH-119 training helicopter at the Navy’s League’s 2019 Sea-Air-Space conference in National Harbor, Maryland.

In a hotly contested competition, the Navy on Monday selected Leonardo’s AgustaWestland to produce and deliver the new TH-32A Advanced Helicopter Training Systems as the new Navy trainer.

Other competitors for the Navy trainer included the twin-engine Airbus H135 and Bell 407GXi single engine, a descendant of the TH-57  Sea Ranger legacy training helicopter getting replaced. The service noted it received five offers.

This $176 million contract covers production and delivery of 32 aircraft, spares, various support and ancillary equipment, and training. The work will be split among Philadelphia (87 percent); Mineral Wells, Texas (5 percent); and various sites outside the continental U.S. It is expected to be finished by October 2021.

The service is expected to eventually procure up to 130 aircraft. The TH-119 offered by Leonardo is derived from the company’s AW109 Trekker and features a four-screen all-glass Genesys Aerosystems cockpit.

Genesys Aerosystems provides the cockpit systems, pictured here, for the helicopter that the U.S. Navy will use to train new pilots. Photo: Genesys Aerosystems.

In September, Leonardo said it will build a 100,000 square foot comprehensive customer support center next to Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Florida if it won this contract.

In July, the Federal Aviation Administration cleared the TH-119 to fly in inclement weather under instrument flight rules (IFR), which allows a pilot to fly in bad weather with limited visibility using only onboard avionics and navigation equipment. At the time, it was the first single-engine helicopter to earn the certification in decades. IFR certification allows a pilot to fly the aircraft through bad weather, where visibility is limited, using only onboard avionics and navigation instruments. It was a core requirement for the Navy’s training helicopter replacement program

The Navy is on a quickened timeline to buy the new helicopter trainers and divest its existing TH-57 fleet by 2023, which began operations in the early 1980s. The award was originally expected in November.

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