The first AW169 LUH (designated UH-169B by the Italian MOD) was sent to the Italian Army on July 10, 2020. (Image credit: crop from original photo released by Leonardo)

The Leonardo Helicopter Division delivered on July 10, 2020 the first AW169 Light Helicopter in training configuration to the Italian Army during a ceremony on the 2nd Rtg. Military aviation “Sirio” (2nd Force. Army Aviation “Sirius”, as the name of the Army regiment is named after the constellations), is based in Lamezia Terme, southern Italy.

The new helicopter, designated by the UH-169B by the Army, is officially configured as “Addestratore Basico Commerciale” and will be used to start training the crew who will fly the final configuration of the helicopter, called “Multiruolo Avanzato” (Advanced Multirole ).

The UH-169B is based on the AW169M, a military variant of the lightweight AW169 twin-engine helicopter, designed to perform a variety of tasks, including utility, surveillance, special operations, maritime patrol, land reconnaissance, training, rescue and fire fighting.

AW169 first LUH – UH-169B sent to the Italian Army. (Photo: Leonardo)

According to the Italian Ministry of Defense, the Light Utility Helicopter will replace the aging Combat Support Helicopter (Elicotteri da Supporto al Combattimento, ESC) currently in service, such as A-109, AB-205, AB-206, AB-212 and AB-412, while filling the gap caused by the current fleet obsolescence and optimizing logistics with a single platform fleet, rather than being based on five different helicopters operated between the 1970s and 1990s.

Gian Piero Cutillo, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters, said during the delivery ceremony: “It gives us great pleasure to celebrate with the Italian Army sending its first AW169 in the configuration of basic training as an important supporter before the implementation of the new and broader LUH program. LUH will surely represent the beginning of a new era in terms of capability, technical support, mission flexibility, and interoperability in the lightweight segment. This new program takes advantage of successful partnerships and decades of information exchange, which are intended to fully understand changing operational needs and how to overcome them through the possibilities offered by new technology. We are committed to supporting the Italian Army to maximize the benefits of this new helicopter. “

AW169M artwork in LUH configuration. (Photo: Leonardo)

Requirements set for the program by the Ministry of Defense require helicopters that are already operating in other Italian armed forces and law enforcement agencies, with a Command and Control (C2) system that is already in operation or in the acquisition stage, with a life span of 10,000 ‘flight hours or no less than 30 years and the ability to communicate and send pictures and videos to troops on land, both with Italian and internal assets combined environment / NATO, following the Forza NEC Army program (Network Capability Enabled).

The helicopter must also appear in the role of “dual use” for civilian Search and Rescue (SAR), Medical Hoarding (MEDEVAC), surveillance, firefighters and support in the event of a natural disaster, as our Editor David Cenciotti explained in a previous article:

“Dual use” is a term that refers to technology that can be used for military and civilian purposes.

“Dual use” has also become a kind of mantra of the Italian approach to the problem of defense. Investment, development, training: It seems that there is no military activity that can be done simply because it serves a special defense purpose, it must also support civilian operations. In fact, the Italian Armed Forces are always “Double”, regularly carrying out peacekeeping operations to support the population. Search and Rescue, Humanitarian Aid, Medical Transportation, Medical Evacuation, Fire Fighting, National Security: this just a few of the many missions regularly carried out by the Italian military for the people.

However, especially in recent times, the purpose of “dual use” of military technology has increasingly emerged in official statements and public discussions, as if “Double” made choices relating to defense, which periodically became the center of political controversy, was more acceptable.

The advanced multirole configuration of the AW169 LUH currently under development will feature special flight and mission equipment including an integrated glass cockpit that is compatible with NVG, a sophisticated C4 system (Command, Control, Communication and Computer), a rescue hoist and a fast rappelling / roping equipment, Electro-Optical / Infra-Red (EO / IR) system, self defense systems, spotlights, loudspeakers, cargo hooks and internal and external weapons stations.

The program calls for 22 helicopters in both versions when presented last year to the Italian Parliament, with the latest public initial report from ARMAEREO (Direzione degli Armamenti Aeronautici e per l’Aeronavigabilit√† or Directorate of Aeronautical Armament and Airworthiness Directorate) mentioning 15 helicopters in sophisticated multirole configurations.

As a side note, together with the first contract for the LUH program, the Italian Parliament also approved the acquisition of 17 new ones HH-139A SAR helicopter for the Italian Air Force, which will be joined by 13 helicopters that are already operating.

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