Aerial Warfare

Israeli Air Force Inducts Leonardo AW119Kx Koala (Ofer) Training Helicopter

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Israeli Air Force Inducts Leonardo AW119Kx Koala (Ofer) Training Helicopter

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Israeli Air Force Inducts Leonardo AW119Kx Koala (Ofer) Training Helicopter
Israeli Air Force Inducts Leonardo AW119Kx Koala (Ofer) Training Helicopter

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has inducted the Leonardo AW119Kx Koala training helicopter, dubbed “Ofer” (Fawn) in national service. The induction ceremony took place on May 26, marking the first operational flight of this new training helicopter at the IAF Flight Academy. This milestone comes as part of a broader effort to modernize and enhance the IAF’s training fleet. The AW119Kx, selected to replace the aging Bell OH-58 Kiowa helicopters, represents a leap forward in training capabilities. The Kiowa, known as “Saifan” (Sword) in Israeli service, has been in operation since 1970, making the transition to the AW119Kx a significant update. The IAF’s decision to acquire these helicopters in 2019 was driven by the need to bridge technological and performance gaps between the older OH-58 and current front-line operational aircraft.

The procurement of the AW119Kx helicopters is part of a broader strategic partnership between Israel and Italy. This partnership mirrors the 2011 agreement for the Alenia M-346 Master jet trainer aircraft. Under the terms of the deal, the Italian Ministry of Defence will receive Israeli military technology of equivalent value, fostering a mutually beneficial exchange. Leonardo Helicopters secured a USD 38 million Foreign Military Sale (FMS) contract for the first seven AW119Kx helicopters in December 2019. Subsequently, on April 6, 2022, the US Division of Leonardo Helicopters received a USD 29 million modification contract from the US Army Contracting Command to further support the IAF’s training helicopter program.

Leonardo AW119Kx Koala (Ofer) training helicopter
Leonardo AW119Kx Koala (Ofer) training helicopter. (Photo by Israeli Air Force)

The AW119Kx is the latest variant of the AgustaWestland AW119 Koala, produced since 2016. It boasts the advanced Garmin G1000HTM integrated flight-deck system, which includes a synthetic vision system, moving map display, and the Helicopter Terrain Awareness Warning System (HTAWS). These features significantly enhance pilot training by providing a more comprehensive and intuitive interface. Powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6B-37B engine, the AW119Kx can accommodate up to eight people and offers impressive performance metrics. It has a top speed of 144 knots, a service ceiling of 18,700 feet, a maximum range of 972 kilometers (with auxiliary tanks), and an endurance of 5 hours 34 minutes. Notably, it is the only single-engined helicopter in production certified for Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), underscoring its versatility and reliability.

The induction of the AW119Kx Koala into the IAF’s training fleet is poised to significantly enhance operational readiness. The helicopter can be equipped with various mission-specific equipment, including external hoists, dual cargo hooks, multi-band radios, and a forward-looking infrared (FLIR) camera. These capabilities ensure that the AW119Kx is not only a training asset but also versatile enough to support a range of operational scenarios. The IAF’s introduction of the Leonardo AW119Kx Koala marks a new era in its training capabilities, aligning with the broader goals of modernization and technological advancement. This strategic acquisition, coupled with the strong bilateral defense cooperation with Italy, positions the IAF to better prepare its pilots for the challenges of modern aerial warfare.

Israeli Air Force Inducts Leonardo AW119Kx Koala (Ofer) Training Helicopter
Leonardo AW119Kx Koala (Ofer) training helicopter. (Photo by Israeli Air Force)

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