Aerial Warfare

Leonardo and Italian Armed Forces Collaborate to Explore Missions for AW609 Tiltrotor Aircraft

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Leonardo and Italian Armed Forces Collaborate to Explore Missions for AW609 Tiltrotor Aircraft

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Leonardo and Italian Armed Forces Collaborate to Explore Missions for AW609 Tiltrotor Aircraft
Leonardo and Italian Armed Forces Collaborate to Explore Missions for AW609 Tiltrotor Aircraft

Leonardo is teaming up with Italy’s armed forces to conduct a comprehensive study on potential missions for the AW609 commercial tiltrotor. This endeavor aims to explore the diverse applications of the AW609, including transportation, surveillance, and search and rescue missions. The study is a crucial step in maturing the tiltrotor ahead of its anticipated entry into service. The Italian Armed Forces express keen interest in the AW609 and its versatile capabilities. Discussions have taken place between Leonardo and the Italian defense ministry’s Air Force Armament and Airworthiness Directorate, Armaereo, to establish the certification basis for the AW609, facilitating upcoming demonstrations in Italy. While the FAA rules are expected to play a role, the emphasis is on tailoring the certification to align with Italian requirements.

Separately, Leonardo is engaged in studying military future vertical lift requirements with the Italian Armed Forces, evaluating various high-speed rotorcraft configurations. This broader effort, currently in its second phase, will lead to a recommendation on the most suitable technology for the Italian defense ministry in the upcoming third phase.The exploration of potential AW609 missions holds strategic significance, potentially paving the way for increased sales of the tiltrotor. Currently, six AW609s are on order, with two allocated for the Bristow Group and four for an undisclosed European customer. These efforts coincide with the AW609 entering what Leonardo hopes to be the final stage of its 21-year certification journey, following the issuance of the FAA’s final certification basis in 2023.

Leonardo AW609 Multirole Tiltrotor Production Aircraft Maiden Flight
Leonardo AW609 multirole tiltrotor production aircraft maiden flight. Designated AC5, the aircraft took to the air at Leonardo’s Philadelphia-based site on 13th October, 2023 performing as expected the initial in-flight evaluation of systems and general handling. (Photo by Leonardo)

In the upcoming months, the second production aircraft will undergo flight testing, marking a significant milestone in the certification process. Leonardo has also granted pilots from potential customers the opportunity to experience the AW609 firsthand, both in Italy and the United Arab Emirates. Collectively, the AW609 test fleet has accumulated an impressive 1,900 flight test hours. Leonardo’s commitment extends beyond certification efforts, as the company is concurrently preparing to fly a technology demonstrator for the Next Generation Civil Tiltrotor (NGCTR). This European Clean Sky 2-funded project utilizes an adapted AW609 airframe to explore new approaches to flight control systems, featuring a V-tail configuration for the rear stabilizer and a fixed engine configuration.

The AW609, formerly known as the Bell/Agusta BA609, stands out as a twin-engined tiltrotor VTOL aircraft, akin to the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey. Offering vertical landing capabilities combined with the range and speed surpassing conventional rotorcraft, the AW609 targets the civil aviation market, catering to VIP customers and offshore oil and gas operators. With a pressurized and soundproofed cabin, the AW609 provides increased passenger comfort and versatility, making it an attractive option for diverse mission profiles. Powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6C-67A turboshaft engines, the AW609’s innovative design allows proprotors to be positioned at various angles, facilitating smooth transitions between helicopter and airplane modes. As the AW609 advances toward certification under the FAA’s Powered Lift category, its unique capabilities and adaptability make it a promising asset for a wide range of missions, supported by ongoing collaboration between Leonardo and the Italian Armed Forces.

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