The National Armaments Directorate of Italy’s Ministry of Defence has awarded Leonardo contracts worth more than USD $530 million for the procurement of five Leonardo/Aermacchi M-345 trainers as well as the design of a next-generation attack helicopter to replace the Italian Amy’s AW129s.
In its official press release, Leonardo says that “the multiyear contract for the new exploration and escort helicopter (NEES) of the Italian Army envisages the study, development, industrialization, production and testing of a prototype and three initial production aircraft.”
Specifics into the nature of the design (e.g. range and payload) have not been disclosed, but Leonardo is aiming to “introduce an even more technologically advanced product, with greater performance and lower operating costs, to meet arising needs in evolving scenarios for the next 30 years.”
The Italian Army is planning to procure 48 NEES units to replace its existing AW129 Mangusta fleet.
Notes & Comments:
The AW129 platform was sold to Turkey, with Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) becoming the principal vendor of the platform. While Leonardo is moving towards a new clean-sheet design, the AW129 platform will continued to be produced in Turkey under the T-129 designation.