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Eight Leonardo AW149 and AW169M Helicopters For North Macedonia

Minister of Defense of North Macedonia, Slavjanka Petrovska, has announced plans to purchase four AgustaWestland AW149 multi-role helicopters and four AW169M helicopters from the Italian company Leonardo Helicopters.

On Monday, January 22, the Minister of Defense of North Macedonia, Slavjanka Petrovska, announced on public television MRT 1 the plans to purchase four AgustaWestland AW149 multi-role helicopters and four AW169M helicopters from the Italian company Leonardo Helicopters.

Leonardo AgustaWestland AW149 / Photo: WSK PZL-Świdnik

The Macedonian minister stated that the selection of both mentioned helicopter types was based on their performance, tactical-technical data, price, offered onboard equipment, and the logistical support system and technical maintenance program provided by the Italian manufacturer. The comprehensive offer for eight helicopters of both types has a value of 330 million euros ($357 million).

At the same time, offers from the European company Airbus Helicopters with the H145M and H225M Caracal models were rejected, as well as two American offers: Bell Textron with the Model 412M and Lockheed Martin with the S-70i Black Hawk International. The selection was made based on the completeness of the offers, price, and the helicopter’s logistical and operational support systems.

Now, an intergovernmental agreement (Government-to-Government, G2G) will be signed between North Macedonia and Italy, and the helicopter deliveries are expected to take place within 24-36 months. The upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in North Macedonia, scheduled for May 8, will not halt the negotiations with Leonardo, as the order has already been approved.

Currently, the Army of Republic Of North Macedonia (Armija na Republika Severna Makedonija) possess 10 Mi-24W attack helicopters (NATO reporting name: Hind-E; serial numbers 201-210) and 2 Mi-24K helicopters (Hind-G2; serial numbers 211 and 212; acquired from Ukraine in 2001). Six of them (Mi-24Ws number 201, 202, 205, 207, 209, and 210) were modernized by the Israeli company Elbit Systems between 2004 and 2014, with only two (209 and 210) still operating from the Petrovec Air Base near Skopje.

North Macedonia also has 6 Mi-8/17 transport helicopters and 4 Bell 206 training helicopters. The post-Soviet helicopters are intended to be transferred to Ukraine for its ongoing conflict, similar to the previously retired Su-25 ground-attack aircraft: three single-seat Su-25K and one two-seat Su-25UBK, which were dismantled for parts.


AW149s of the Polish Armed Forces / Photo: 25th Air Cavalry Brigade

The AW149 helicopters are known in Poland due to the purchase of 32 units by the Armament Inspectorate (only 3 have been delivered so far). Previously, they have been delivered to Egypt (10 out of 24 ordered with an option for 10 more) and Thailand (6 delivered). They are also being offered in the United Kingdom as part of the NMH (New Medium Helicopter) program, which has a requirement for 30-40 units.

These are multi-role military helicopters capable of conducting Visual Flight Rules/Instrumental Flight Rules (VFR/IFR) flights during both day and night, as well as in Night Vision Conditions (NVC). The helicopter has a length of 17.57 meters and a height of 5.07 meters, with the main rotor having a diameter of 14.6 meters. The maximum takeoff weight is 8300 kg, with the possibility of increasing it to 8600 kg. The maximum speed of the helicopters is 313 km/h, and the cruise speed is 287 km/h. The crew consists of 2 people, although basic missions can be accomplished by a single pilot. The maximum range is 958 km, and the maximum endurance is 4 hours and 55 minutes. The AW149 can carry up to 19 passengers on board.

The helicopter can be powered by either two General Electric CT7-2E1 turboshaft engines (which Poland has chosen) or Safran Aneto-1K engines, along with a 60-watt auxiliary power unit Safran e-APU for both engine options. The final assembly takes place at Leonardo facilities in Vergiate, Italy.


AgustaWestland AW169M / Photo: Leonardo Helicopters

On the other hand, the AW169M has a length of 14.645 meters, a width of 2.53 meters, and a height of 4.5 meters. The main rotor diameter is 12.12 meters. The helicopter is powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW210A turboshaft engines, fully digitally controlled using the FADEC system. It provides a maximum speed of 306 km/h, a range of 820 km, and a maximum flight time of 4 hours and 20 minutes. Interestingly, for the needs of the Italian military user, the maximum takeoff weight has been increased from 4800 to 5100 kg.

According to information from November of the previous year, over 320 AW169 helicopters were ordered at that time, with approximately 170 units delivered from the final assembly line in Vergiate, Italy, to users in more than 30 countries. The global fleet had accumulated over 170,000 flight hours by that time, across all types of operations and conditions. The fleet leader had surpassed 3,700 flight hours in emergency medical services (EMS) operations in Sweden.

It’s worth noting that components for AW149 and AW169M helicopters are manufactured at the Leonardo Helicopters-owned WSK PZL-Świdnik facilities in Poland.


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