First Flight Success, Leonardo AW249 Will Replace A129 Mangusta As Italian Army Helicopter

First Flight Success, Leonardo AW249 Will Replace A129 Mangusta As Italian Army Helicopter
Leonardo AW249 Will Replace A129 Mangusta As Italian Army Helicopter

International Military - The first prototype of the Leonardo AW249 attack helicopter flew for the first time on 12 August 2022 from the factory facility in Vergiate. The helicopter, officially designated as the AW249 NEES (Nuovo Elicotero da Esplorazione e Scorta or New Exploration and Escort Helicopter) will replace the A129 Mangusta, which has been in service with the Italian Army since the 1990s.

Leonardo has been working on the project since 2017, when the Italian Ministry of Defense initiated the NEES program, which includes one prototype, three pre-series production helicopters, and the need for up to 48 operational helicopters.

In its design, the AW249 is adapted to the battle space of the future. To adapt to rapidly evolving scenarios. The helicopter will incorporate an open systems architecture to enable rapid upgrade and growth capabilities, advanced communications, and an advanced battlespace management system.

In addition, due to the increasing need to collaborate with other platforms in network-centric operations, the AW249 will feature manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) capabilities.

The helicopter's interoperability and situational awareness will be driven by the C2 (Command and control) and C4 (command, control, communications, and computer) systems, along with Software Defined Radios for multi-band Line of Sight (LOS), Beyond Line Sight communications (BLOS). ), Variable Message Format (VMF), Link-16 data link, and photo and video transmission system (ROVER).

Situational awareness will also take advantage of obstacle profile detection and altimetric systems, as well as all standard navigation aids, day/night and thermal vision systems, as well as helmet-mounted displays (HMDs) and various information will be displayed on a large area display (LAD) in both cockpits.

The AW249 helicopter is powered by a pair of GE Aviation CT7-8E6 (T700) turboshaft engines, producing 2,500 hp (1,860kW) each and also uses the dynamic components of the AW149 transport helicopter to save development costs.

The AW249 has a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) in the range of 7,500 – 8,000 kg (about double that of the MTOW A129), with the capability to operate in hot and high and cold weather conditions, with a cruising speed of 260 km/h and an endurance of three hours. .

The AW249 has twice the payload compared to the A129. There are six gun hangers on the small wing that can accommodate air-to-ground and air-to-air missiles, guided rockets and external fuel tanks, in addition to a chin-mounted 20mm cannon.

The helicopter features advanced self-protection suites such as the Elettronica ELT-162 Radar Warning Receiver, Elettronica ELT/577 Quiris Directed Infra-Red Counter Measure System (DIRCM) and Leonardo Multi Aperture InfraRed (MAIR) Missile Warning System (MWS).

The AW249 also has several low-detection features to reduce radar cross-section and infrared signatures. While not a stealth helicopter, these features will help make the AW249's detection more difficult for enemies.

It is planned that the production version of the AW249 itself will be delivered starting in 2025, gradually replacing the position of the A129C/D which is still the mainstay of the Italian Army.

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