The helicopter, based on the commercial AW119, will replace the TH-57 Sea Ranger.
The U.S. Navy announced on January 13, 2020 the award of the contract for the new TH-73A helicopter to AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corporation, U.S. subsidiary of the Italian company Leonardo. The helicopters, a component of the Advanced Helicopter Training System (AHTS) program, will replace the aging TH-57 Sea Ranger, a military derivative of the famous Bell 206 Jet Ranger, after 35 years of service.
“Today marks a great team effort to procure and deliver a helicopter trainer for the next generation of helicopter and tilt-rotor pilots for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard,” said James F. Geurts, assistant secretary of the U.S. Navy for research, development and acquisition.
The contract, valued $176.5M for a base requirement of 32 TH-73A helicopters, can be extended through three one-year options up to a total contract value of $648.1M for the procurement of 130 aircraft, with deliveries scheduled from 2020 through 2024.
Alessandro Profumo, Leonardo’s CEO, said about the contract award: “On the cusp of celebrating nearly 40 years of operating in Philadelphia, Leonardo is thrilled the U.S. Navy has selected our TH-119-based offer and us as a local and long-term partner. We are proud to be a core contributor to the future of U.S. defense.”
The TH-73A, proposed as TH-119 to the US Navy, is based on the commercial AW119 “Koala” and is powered by a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6B-37A engine, with a takeoff power rating of 1,002 hp and a maximum take-off weight of 6,283 lb (2,850 kg). In terms of flight performance, the TH-73 will be similar to the commercial AW119, with a cruise speed of 130 kt, 1,800 ft/min sea level rate of climb, hover in-ground-effect of 11,000 ft, service ceiling of 15,000 ft and a range of 515 nmi.
The cockpit features an avionic suite made by Genesys Aerosystems, with four 6- by 8-inch displays, instrument-certified dual GPS/WAAS navigation system, synthetic vision system, Helicopter Terrain Avoidance Warning System (HTAWS), moving map and integrated communication and navigation systems. The helicopter was also certified last summer for IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) flight by the FAA.
The other helicopters in the TH-XX competition, later renamed to TH-73, were the Airbus H-135 and the Bell 407 GXi. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and the Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA) selected the TH-119 after leveraging the commercial industrial base to meet the requirements at the best value to the taxpayer, according to the official statement. The awarded base contract includes also initial spares, peculiar support equipment, flyaway kits, hoists, sling loads, data in excess of Commercial Form Fit Function (FFF) / Operations Maintenance Instructional Training (OMIT) Data, as well as instructor pilot and maintenance personnel training.
The new TH-73A helicopters will be based at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field-South (Florida), where they will be used for Naval Undergraduate Flight Training of Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.
The new contract comes about 16 months after the United States Air Force announced the selection of another Leonardo helicopter, the MH-139, based on the AW-139, to replace its fleet of UH-1N “Huey” helicopters. The US Air Force Global Strike Command received the first MH-139A “Grey Wolf” for testing during a naming and unveiling ceremony on December 19, 2019.