At a ceremony on its Philadelphia campus and under the backdrop of the Stars and Stripes, Leonardo officially delivered the first TH-73A training helicopter to the U.S. Navy earlier today. The ceremony was attended by Vice Admiral Kenneth Whitesell, commander of Naval Air Forces and Commander, Naval Air Force U.S. Pacific Fleet; Rear Admiral Gregory Harris, Director of Air Warfare Division (N98); and Captain Holly Shoger, Program Manager of Naval Undergraduate Flight Training Systems Program. Also attending the ceremony was Leonardo Helicopters Managing Director Gian Piero Cutillo and members of local, state and federal elected delegations, including Congressman Donald Norcross and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.
The total requirement is for 130 aircraft with delivery to continue through calendar year 2024. The initial, firm-fixed-price contract just shy of $177 million awarded in 2020 called for the production and delivery of 32 TH-73A helicopters, initial spares, support, dedicated equipment, in addition to specific pilot and maintenance services. In November 2020, the U.S. Department of Defense exercised options for an additional 36 aircraft in a $171 million fixed-price-contract. The TH-73A is expected to be in service for approximately 30 years. It is the replacement for 35-year-old TH-57Bs and TH-57Cs, which will begin sundown in fiscal year 2022 and concludes in the fiscal year 2024 timeframe.
The TH-73A is replacing the aging fleet of TH-57B/C Sea Rangers, and will serve as the first training aircraft for thousands of Student Naval Aviators at NAS Whiting Field in Milton, FL, where all student helicopter pilots for the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard train along with several NATO-allied nations. To support this new fleet, Leonardo has announced the construction of a new comprehensive 100,000 sq. ft. helicopter support center at Whiting Aviation Park, located directly across the runway from NAS Whiting Field for seamless and immediate maintenance and repair support, with groundbreaking expected in December 2021.
The TH-73A, based on the Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) certified variant of the popular commercial AW119Kx, is perfectly suited for initial training flights, but also capable of advanced training. With a powerful and reliable Pratt & Whitney PT-6 engine, dual safety and hydraulic systems and advanced digital avionics by Genesys Aerosystems, the TH-73 can perform every maneuver in the U.S. Navy’s training syllabus for seamless transition from basic maneuvers to advanced operational training. The Advanced Helicopter Training System will modernize Navy training technology, taking it from analog to digital, and is manufactured to serve aviation students until 2050 or longer.