The National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) counterterrorism office planned to replace its Bell Helicopter Textron [TXT]-made helicopters with a pair of Leonardo-made aircraft, according to a contract award posted online Monday.
The roughly $35.5-million award covers “two (2) each Rotary Wing Aircraft in support of the [National Nuclear Security Administration] NNSA Office of Nuclear Incident Response” from AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corp., according to a notice on sam.gov, the federal government’s official procurement website.
AugustaWestland, an Anglo-Italian company formerly headquartered in Rome, merged with Leonardo in 2016.
The NNSA is the semiautonomous Department of Energy agency responsible for designing, manufacturing, modernizing and maintaining nuclear weapons.
The agency also has a nuclear nonproliferation branch, which includes the Nuclear Emergency Support Team and a small fleet of fixed-wing and rotary aircraft, the latter of which are often seen sweeping big cities ahead of major holidays and sporting events, including recently the Las Vegas strip. The NNSA counterterrorism office measures background radiation ahead of large public events to create a backdrop against which a smuggled improvised explosive device, or radiological dirty bomb, would stand out.
The current, and aging, helicopter fleet is anchored by a pair of twin-engine Bell 412s. The NNSA did not say which model it planned to purchase from Leonardo.