The well-established relationship between Leonardo and the US Navy on the advanced training of next generation helicopter pilots has been further strengthened. The US Department of Defense has confirmed the options for the purchase of an additional 36 TH-73A rotorcraft, with initial spares, for a $159.4 million US$ firm-fixed price. The third lot brings the total number of aircraft on order to 104 of the 130 total requirement, with delivery continuing up to 2024. Additionally, the new fleet will be used for training the US Marines and Coast Guard.
In January 2020, Leonardo, through AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corp., was awarded a firm-fixed-price contract valued at $176 million for the production and delivery of an initial 32 TH-73A helicopters. The agreement – which included an initial package of spares, support, dedicated equipment, and specific pilot and maintenance training services – was confirmed in the following November through the order of a second lot of aircraft through a $171 million contract modification for an additional 36 helicopters.
All TH-73As will be manufactured at the Leonardo plant in Philadelphia. The plant has been active since the first half of the 1980s. It operates as a supplier and partner to the US Department of Defense through the TH-73A program for the US Navy, of which Leonardo is prime contractor. In addition to the Boeing MH-139A program for the US Air Force.
The plant employs 700 of Leonardo’s 7,000 employees active in the US. Other activities, which take place in Philadelphia, include the final assembly of the AW119, AW139 and the AW609 tiltrotor, as well as support and maintenance services. Flight and maintenance training is undertaken at the Training Academy, which was inaugurated this year. It serves to target pilots and technicians across North America, Latin America, and international customers. The plant also undertakes development, research and certification.
The delivery ceremony of the first TH-73A to the US Navy took place in June 2021 at the North American site. Based on the IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) variant of the commercial model AW119Kx, the TH-73A – will replace the TH-57B/C Sea Ranger nearing the end of its operational life – is perfectly suited for initial training flights, but also capable of advanced training. The thousands of future US pilots Navy, Marines and US Coast Guard will be trained at Whitin Field Base in Milton, Florida.
Equipped with a powerful and reliable Pratt & Whitney PT-6 engine and characterized by dual safety and hydraulic systems and advanced digital avionics by Genesys Aerosystems, the TH-73 can perform every phase of the US Navy’s training program, and progressively transition from basic maneuvers to operational training. The new system will allow the US Navy to upgrade its technologies from analogue to digital, with a view to maintaining it in service until after 2050.
In the US, Leonardo’s helicopters cover a wide range of uses. In addition to training activities, the platforms are in fact used by individuals and institutions for passenger transport tasks, support to the energy industry, healthcare, search and rescue, fire prevention, safety, and public order.