AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corporation (Leonardo) has delivered almost a third of the TH-73A Thrasher training helicopters that the US Navy plans to buy. The U.S. Navy intends to buy 130 Thrashers, with deliveries expected to end in 2025. The defense news and analysis company Janes reported that Leonardo is building three or four TH-73As a month in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the US, and delivered the 41st on 4 April, said Jeffrey Ketcham, director of navy programmes for Leonardo Helicopters. The programme has largely recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic, which sidelined much of its workforce and slowed production. The first operational TH-73A “Thrasher” training helicopter landed at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field in Milton, August 6, 2021.
The TH-73A is a variant of the commercial Leonardo TH-119 helicopter. The TH-73A AHTS is the replacement for 35-year-old TH-57Bs and TH-57Cs. The TH-73A incorporates a modern avionics suite with a fully integrated flight management system, automatic flight control system, and independent, digital cockpit displays to both pilot stations. It boasts increased performance in power, speed, payload, and endurance over the Sea Ranger, making it comparable to fleet aircraft. These upgrades will help bridge capability and capacity gaps to better prepare newly winged naval aviators as they transition to fleet replacement squadrons for postgraduate training. The full Advanced Helicopter Training System (AHTS) includes aircrew training services that provide availability on new simulators, a modernized curriculum, and a new contractor logistics support contract for Thrasher maintenance support.
US Navy’s instructor pilot training for the new TH-73A Advanced Helicopter Training System (AHTS) began in June with the first two instructor pilots from Training Air Wing (TAW) 5 getting classroom and hands-on experience at the AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corporation (Leonardo) facility in Philadelphia. The helicopter will be assigned to Training Air Wing (TW) 5 and will replace Chief of Naval Air Training’s (CNATRA) TH-57B/C Sea Ranger as the undergraduate training helicopter for the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Leonardo Helicopters is contracted to deliver 31 additional Thrashers this calendar year for a total of 130 through 2024 before the Sea Ranger’s scheduled sundown in 2025. Leonardo Helicopters is contracted to deliver 31 additional Thrashers this calendar year for a total of 130 through 2024 before the Sea Ranger’s scheduled sundown in 2025 and will provide the Navy the capacity to train several hundred aviation students per year.
The TH-73As will be housed in a temporary hangar at NAS Whiting Field, while construction of a new helicopter maintenance hangar on base is slated to begin in 2023. Leonardo Helicopters also recently established a TH-73A maintenance support team at Santa Rosa County’s new aviation customer service hangar at Peter Prince Airport in Milton. PMA-273 at Naval Air Systems in Patuxent River, Maryland, oversees the AHTS and TH-73A, and will determine the final disposition of the 35-year-old TH-57 Sea Ranger, which is scheduled to sundown in fiscal years 2022 through 2025. The TH-73A Thrasher is named for the brown thrasher, a bird common to the skies over the Southeastern United States including Northwest Florida. The inconspicuous, yet territorial, bird is a fearless defender known for its low-level flying prowess.