AW129. Photo courtesy of Leonardo
Leonardo has signed a contract with the National Armaments Directorate of the Italian Defense Ministry for the development of a replacement helicopter for the AW129, the manufacturer said. Along with another contract for the replacement of trainer jets, the combined value of the contracts is worth more than $535 million.
Nearing 30 years in operation, the Leonardo AW129 is in service with the Army and is expecting to be retired by 2025. Its replacement will be designed for exploration and escort. Designated as “NEES,” the development of the new helicopter has been signed on a multi-year contract. It encompasses the study, development, industrialization, production and testing of a prototype and three initial production aircraft.
The delivery contract covers an initial batch of five Aermacchi M-345 trainers, also in an effort to update a fleet. The new training aircraft are set to replace the Italian Air Force’s aging 137 Aermacchi MB-339 aircraft, which entered into operation in 1982.