Egypt has ordered 24 AW149 combat helicopters and eight AW189 civil models from Italy’s Leonardo Helicopters under an 871 million euro contract signed last year.
This is according to the Italian foreign ministry’s report to the Senate on 2019 arms exports, published in May. This put Egypt into the top place last year in terms of defence export license values.
However, Shephard Media in March noted that the contract for the AW149 helicopters had not been listed in company financial records for 2019 and Leonardo has neither confirmed nor denied the Egyptian order.
France’s La Tribune reported in April 2019 that Egypt had chosen the AW149 over the NH90 to meet a shipboard helicopter requirement. France was hoping to sell the NH90 to Egypt after a string of sales that has included 24 Rafale fighter jets, two Mistral class landing helicopter docks (LHDs) and four Gowind class corvettes since 2014.
Egypt was looking at acquiring 20-30 NH90 type helicopters for use aboard its naval vessels but it will also fly the AW149 on land-based troop transport and search and rescue missions.
The 8.3/8.6 tonne AW149 first flew in 2009 and slots in between smaller helicopters like the AW139 and larger helicopters like the Boeing CH-47 Chinook. It was developed from the AW139, but with 40% more internal volume and more powerful engines – the aircraft is powered by two General Electric CT7-2E1 turboshafts each developing 2 000 shp. In the troop transport role the AW149 can carry 12 fully equipped soldiers or 19 passengers on crashworthy seats. Weapons options are available, including gun pods, rocket pods and guided missiles.
Leonardo says the AW149 is designed for a multitude of missions such as troop transport, re-supply/external load lift, medical and casualty evacuation, search and rescue, Special Forces operations, close air support/armed escort, command and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
Since its launch six years ago, Leonardo has struggled to find military customers for the AW149, with the only confirmed customer to date being the Royal Thai Army, which ordered five.
The civil AW189 variant has fared better, with some 60 helicopters in service, mostly in the offshore oil and gas industry and in public service in the United Kingdom, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan.