Leonardo AW249 Next-Gen Combat Helicopter Makes Debut

Leonardo AW249 Next-Gen Combat Helicopter Makes Debut

Leonardo has unveiled its AW249 next-generation gunship helicopter at Eurosatory 2024 in Paris, marking the aircraft’s international debut. This advanced combat helicopter, developed to replace the Italian Army’s aging A-129 Mangusta fleet, represents a significant leap in rotorcraft technology.

Advanced Design and Technologies

The AW249, nicknamed “Fenice” (Italian for “Phoenix”), is the only new Western combat helicopter designed from scratch in recent years. It incorporates cutting-edge technologies enhancing digitization, connectivity, sensor fusion, and interoperability. These features position the AW249 as a force multiplier in multi-domain operations.

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While not a stealth helicopter, the AW249 includes features to reduce its radar cross-section and infrared signature, improving survivability in contested environments. The aircraft boasts a new airframe, transmission, engines, and avionics, representing a distinct evolution from its predecessor.

Open Architecture and Situational Awareness

Leonardo emphasizes the AW249’s open architecture, allowing for future growth and adaptability. The helicopter features advanced cockpit displays, including large area displays and helmet-mounted systems, enhancing crew situational awareness. Sophisticated obstacle detection systems and advanced vision capabilities further augment its operational effectiveness.

Multi-Role Capabilities

The AW249 is designed for versatility, capable of executing missions including aerial escort, close air support, air interdiction, and intelligence gathering. Its advanced systems allow it to function as a key element in C4 (ISTAR) networks, enhancing its manned-unmanned teaming capabilities.

Armament and Survivability

Equipped with a flexible weapon system, the AW249 can carry guided and unguided rockets, air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, and a 20mm Gatling gun. Survivability is enhanced through an Integrated Defensive Aids Suite, armored seats, and ballistic-tolerant fuel tanks.

Development Status and Future Prospects

Since its first flight in August 2022, four prototypes have been built, with two actively involved in testing. The Italian Army expects to receive its first deliveries by 2027. Leonardo is now marketing the AW249 internationally, with potential customers in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America showing interest.

As the only new Western-designed combat helicopter of its generation, the AW249 represents a significant advancement in rotorcraft technology. Its debut at Eurosatory 2024 marks an important milestone in its journey towards operational deployment and potential export success.

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