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Eurosatory 2024: International Premiere of the AW249

During this year’s Eurosatory exhibition, the Italian company Leonardo presented its new combat helicopter, the AW249, for the first time on the international stage.

On Tuesday, June 18, 2024, during the Eurosatory 2024 defense industry exhibition, the world premiere of the new combat helicopter AW249, developed by the Italian company Leonardo Helicopters, took place. This is the result of close cooperation between the Italian Ministry of Defense and Leonardo. According to representatives of the manufacturer, the AW249 (designated as AH-249A NEES – Nuovo Elicottero da Esplorazione e Scorta – known as Fenice) is the only Western combat helicopter project developed from the start to meet the emerging rigorous operational requirements of the next 30 years.

Presentation of the new Leonardo Helicopters AW249 combat helicopter at Eurosatory 2024 / Photos: Grzegorz Sobczak, MILMAG

The AW249 features a completely open architecture, allowing significant further development and customization of the system and its capabilities to meet demanding market requirements. This makes the new helicopter adaptable to future battlefield needs. In addition to excellent performance, such as speed, range, power surplus, and payload capacity in high-temperature and low-density air conditions, as well as maneuverability enabling flights at very low altitudes (NOE), a key feature of the AW249 is its ability to fully integrate and interoperate on the modern, multi-domain battlefield. The AW249 is equipped with an advanced large-screen display and a touchscreen integrated with a sensor recognizing the pilot’s hand movements, located in the crew cabin configured in a tandem layout – providing a highly efficient human-machine interface. The new helicopter is equipped with a combat management system developed by Leonardo. Displays and modern helmets with helmet-mounted displays allow the crew quick access to essential flight, navigation, and mission data, provided by numerous sensors and advanced communication systems.

As Roberto Caprarella, head of communications at Leonardo, told MILMAG, the AW249 also features high survivability on the battlefield, thanks in part to its transmission system, which can operate for 50 minutes after complete loss of lubrication. This is 20 minutes more than the civil requirements of EASA and FAA in this regard. As a result, the helicopter can not only leave the battlefield after being damaged but also complete its mission.

It is worth noting that the transmission system in the AW249 helicopter is identical to the one used in the well-known AW149 in Poland, which highlights the potential of this latter design as well,” emphasized Roberto Caprarella.

When asked about the Polish contribution to Leonardo Helicopters’ new product, Roberto Caprarella pointed out that some sections of the airframe are produced at WSK PZL-Świdnik. In the event of further development of the design, fatigue testing of the structure may also be conducted in Świdnik. The AW249 is being developed to replace the Italian Army’s AW129 air fleet, which is nearing the end of its life cycle. The AW249 prototype was first flown in the summer of 2022. Since then, four prototypes have been built, with two flying models engaged in flight testing and onboard systems integration, and two more completed and soon to be included in the testing program. A contract for serial production is expected soon, with deliveries to the Italian Army starting in 2027.


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