By Luca Peruzzi
In addition to the Guardia di Finanza, the AW169M is under acquisition process by the Carabinieri and the Italian Army, the latter as part of a wider Armed Forces procurement programme.
Leonardo’s Helicopter Division has reached the conclusive milestone in the military version development and certification programme of the light intermediate twin-turbine AW169 helicopter, instrumental to the delivery to the launch customer, Italy’s Customs Police Guardia di Finanza. “We have obtained the type certificate of the AW169M version by Italian MoD’s ARMAEREO Air Armaments and Air worthiness Directorate by the middle of this month, successfully completing the development and certification programme of the new version of Leonardo’s AW169 light intermediate rotary-wing platform, prior to the delivery to the launch customer for that version, the Guardia di Finanza”, said Gian Piero Cutillo, Managing Director of Leonardo Elicotteri aside the ceremony for the delivery of the 1000th AW139 helicopter to the same Guardia di Finanza customer. “A significant milestone for the AW169M offer on the national and international markets, where the platform in the civil and law enforcement applications have gained a significant success with over 200 helicopters ordered in more than 30 countries by over 80 customers”, he added.
The Guardia di Finanza has chosen a patrol and reconnaissance, law enforcement, rescue and homeland security platform configuration. It features a dedicated configuration including rescue hoist, emergency floatation system and life rafts, crashworthy seats and fuel system, wire cutters, TCAS II (Traffic Collision Avoidance System), HTAWS (Helicopter Terrain Awareness Warning System), OPLS (Obstacle Proximity Lidar System), advanced HUMS (Health Usage Monitoring System), NVG (Night Vision Goggle) compatible cockpit with dual flight management system and AFCS (Automatic Flight Control System) with SAR modes, searchlight, ice detector and fast roping. The aircraft will also be fitted with a range of Leonardo systems, centered on the RW ATOS (Airborne Tactical Observation and Surveillance) mission system with an advanced operator console featuring two multifunction touch-screen colour displays. The latter manages the communication and identification suite with V/UHF radios, a combined 4G/SATCOM system with voice, data and video capabilities and an M428 IFF transponder system, together with the sensors suite centered on Leonardo’s Gabbiano T-20 radar and a 15 inch Long Range Electro-Optical Surveillance System (LEOSS), sided by an active/passive IMSI Catcher and provisions for Leonardo’s SPHYDER hyperspectral detection and reconnaissance system. The first four aircraft will be in a training configuration while the remaining of the 22 ordered helicopters will follow. The launch of acceptance procedures for the first four helicopters is expected soon. The contract also includes a training and support package.
In addition to Guardia di Finanza, other government agencies and armed forces are looking at the AW169M such as the Carabinieri with a light intermediate category helicopter requirement for five platforms plus options for additional two, and logistic support to be satisfied by Leonardo Elicotteri.
The recent Defence Multi-year Programming Document (Documento Programmatico Pluriennale) 2019-2021 has highlighted the launch of a new procurement programme for a new light utility helicopter (LUH) capable to replace a range of ageing rotary-wing platform families in the light to intermediate segments across the remaining Armed Forces. An initial € 382 million funding has been approved on a € 2.2 billion overall programme request. As the main Armed Forces future customer, the Italian Army requested ARMAEREO to start the acquisition procedure and the latter announced in mid-September to have launched the procurement process for the first two AW169M helicopters in a basic training configuration plus integrated logistic support for the first two years and initial training for crews and technicians as well as the development of an “advanced multirole” version for an overall cost estimated at € 45 million. The AW169M has been selected as the only platform capable to satisfy the technical requirement and the logistic and training commonality with other Armed Forces and agencies, as the platform is being delivered to the Guardia di Finanza and is being acquired by Carabinieri. Moreover, the AW169M will have a C2 capability in common with other platforms in the acquisition phase such as the new Escort and Reconnaissance Helicopter or NESS (Nuovo Elicottero da Esplorazione e Scorta).
The AW169M has been developed to meet the stringent military and civilian certification requirements of military, homeland security and government users. With a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 4,600 kg (extended to the certified 4,800 kg kit by most customers) and capable to cover a wide range of missions, from tactical troop transport and special force support, search and rescue, MEDEVAC/CASEVAC, to maritime surveillance, homeland security and fire support, the AW169M fully complies with the latest stringent FAR/JAR/EASA requirements in terms of performance and safety. Its Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210A engines, dual channel Full Authority Digital Electronic Control (FADEC), together with new generation 5-bladed main rotor, deliver enhanced hover performance, even in demanding conditions and at all weights, according to Leonardo.
Designed with inherent multirole capability and flexibility of operation, the AW169 features a large unobstructed transport cabin with large sliding doors capable to accommodate up to 10 troops that can be converted to recovery up to 2 stretchers in flight. The AW169M offers high maneuverability, power margin and demonstrated to be a forgiving aircraft in all flight and mission conditions, according to Leonardo. A damage and ballistic tolerant fail-safe airframe and rotorcraft system features multiple redundancies of all critical systems, excellent one engine inoperative (O.E.I.) capability, a 30 minutes ‘run-dry’ capable transmission, self-sealing crashworthy fuel system, crashworthy airframe and seating, heavy duty landing gear and armor protection for crew, fuel system and vital components as well as an advanced integrated self-defence suite.
The platform’s fully integrated aircraft and mission management system is based on latest generation technology and avionics comprising a low workload/high situational awareness single pilot IFR and NVG compatible glass cockpit with an integrated control and display system. This features three large multifunctional displays and touch screen technology. Avionics also includes an integrated 4-axis digital AFCS, advanced communications and data management system, a comprehensive sensors suite, synthetic vision and Helmet Mounted Display (HMD) / Head-up Display (HUD). A combination of weapon systems will comprise machine guns, rocket launchers and air-to-ground missiles.
Photo courtesy Leonardo Elicotteri