Aerial Warfare

North Macedonia Selects Leonardo AW149 and AW169M Military Helicopters

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North Macedonia Selects Leonardo AW149 and AW169M Military Helicopters

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Leonardo AW149 medium-lift multi-role military helicopter
Leonardo AW149 medium-lift multi-role military helicopter

The North Macedonian Ministry of Defence (MoD) is set to acquire eight multi-purpose helicopters from Leonardo over the competing Airbus, Bell and Lockheed Martin helicopters. The MoD’s recent statement disclosed that the deal comprises four AW169 and four AW149 helicopters, propelling North Macedonia into the league of NATO nations equipped with the cutting-edge AW149s. The procurement project has entered the critical stage of forming a dedicated team tasked with conducting technical negotiations and finalizing the contract. The imminent government-to-government (G2G) agreement between North Macedonia and Italy will solidify the deal, with helicopter deliveries expected 24–36 months after the signing.

Leonardo AW149  light intermediate multi-role military helicopter
Leonardo AW149 light intermediate multi-role military helicopter. (Photo by Leonardo)

Leonardo’s bid emerged victorious, outclassing competitors from both Europe and the United States. The contenders included Airbus with their H145M and H222M helicopters, as well as Bell 412M and Lockheed Martin’s S-70 Black Hawk. The selection process considered a spectrum of factors, such as the helicopters’ overall capabilities, pricing, and the efficiency of their logistics and maintenance systems. This acquisition signifies a significant shift for the North Macedonian military aviation, currently operating Mil Mi-24, Mil Mi-17, and Bell 206 helicopters. As part of this transformation, a portion of the existing fleet is earmarked for donation to Ukraine, contributing to the ongoing military assistance program.

Leonardo AW149 medium-lift multi-role military helicopter
Leonardo AW149 medium-lift multi-role military helicopter. (Photo by Leonardo)

The Leonardo AW149 is a medium-lift multi-role military helicopter developed by AgustaWestland, now Leonardo, launched in 2006. The AW149 is optimised for a multitude of battlefield missions such as troop transport and re-supply/external load lift; medical and casualty evacuation; Search and Rescue (SAR) and Personnel Recovery; special forces operations; close air support/armed escort; Command and Control (C2); and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR). The large sliding doors support fast roping and hoist operations, enabling troop insertion and extraction on the hover while allowing simultaneous cover fire from window-mounted machine guns. A large equipment stowage area for stretchers and medical kit can be accessed optionally from the cabin.

Leonardo AW149  light intermediate multi-role military helicopter
Leonardo AW149 light intermediate multi-role military helicopter. (Photo by Leonardo)

The Leonardo AW169 is a twin-engine, 10-seat, 4.8t helicopter developed and manufactured by AgustaWestland, now Leonardo, launched in 2006. It was designed to share similarities with the larger Leonardo AW139 and Leonardo AW189. The AW169M is a militarised variant UH-169 LUH for the Italian Army, with adaptations for troop transport, utility support, maritime patrol, armed reconnaissance and close air support operations. Newly developed dampers were installed between the rotor blades of the main rotor in order to reduce vibration levels for a smooth passenger experience. In a utility passenger configuration, up to 10 people can be accommodated in the AW169’s main cabin, while a corporate transport arrangement can house a maximum of eight people, and a more spacious VIP layout holds six to seven passengers instead.

Leonardo AW149 medium-lift multi-role military helicopter
Leonardo AW149 medium-lift multi-role military helicopter. (Photo by Leonardo)

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