Leonardo delivered the first new TH-73A Navy training helicopter during a ceremony on Thursday at its facility in Philadelphia.

The ceremony included Vice Admiral Kenneth Whitesell, commander of Naval Air Forces and Commander, Naval Air Force U.S. Pacific Fleet; Rear Admiral Gregory Harris, Director of Air Warfare Division (N98); Captain Holly Shoger, Program Manager of Naval Undergraduate Flight Training Systems Program; and members of local, state and federal elected delegations.

The Navy originally awarded the company an initial $176 million contract to produce and deliver 32 TH-73A Advanced Helicopter Training Systems, bidding with its TH-110 helicopter, which is derived from the Leonardo AgustaWestland AW109 Trekker (Defense Daily, Jan. 13).

The service has a requirement for 130 total helicopters, with deliveries planned to continue through 2024. Last November, the Defense Department exercised a $171 million option for another 36 helicopters. 

In the Navy’s fiscal year 2022 budget request the service requested $163 million to fund procurement of another 36 TH-73As (Defense Daily, June 1).

“Today’s event marks a significant milestone for Leonardo, marking our growing effort and commitment to becoming not just a supplier, but a partner and strategic asset for the United States in several sectors” Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumo said in a statement

“The U.S. Navy expects the highest quality of training for its future aviators. We are honored to start delivery of the product chosen for this critical task. Today is just the beginning of a journey we have undertaken to support the Navy as it shapes the capabilities of future generations of aviation students,” Gian Piero Cutillo, Leonardo Helicopters managing director, added.

The new TH-73As will replace the aging fleet of TH-57 Sea Rangers, used to train all Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard rotorcraft pilots, which started operations in the early 1980s. The new trainers will operate at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field in Milton, Fla., where all the student helicopter pilots train alongside several NATO allied countries.

The company said it plans to support maintenance and repairs for the new trainer fleet by building a new 100,000 square foot helicopter support center at Whiting Aviation Park, across the runway from NAS Whiting Field. Leonardo said groundbreaking on the facility is planned for December 2021.

In February 2020, another competitor for the trainer replacement, Airbus, lodged a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO). However, by May 2020 GAO denied the protest, allowing Leonardo’s contract to go forward (Defense Daily, May 14, 2020).

Last August, the Navy awarded FlightSafety Services Corp. a $221 million contract for TH-73A aircrew training services (Defense Daily, August 28, 2020).

Similarly, last October the Navy awarded Vertex Aerospace a $70 million contract for base year Contractor Logistics and Maintenance Support (CLS) for the TH-73A. CLS availability was expected to start this year and last through 2027 (Defense Daily, October 23, 2020).

Leonardo boasted the TH-73A can perform every maneuver in the Navy’s training syllabus, will move training technology from analog to digital, and is built to serve students through 2050 or longer.