Egypt is believed to have ordered AW149 helicopters to use aboard its naval vessels, choosing the Leonardo Helicopters product over the competing NH90.
According to France’s La Tribune, Egypt informed France last week that it had chosen the AW149, with the order believed to cover around 20 helicopters. Leonardo has neither confirmed nor denied the contract.
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 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 Italian military has expressed interest in the type, but no order has yet materialised – the Italian Air Force said it would buy AW149s for search and rescue but instead opted for the lighter AW139M.
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.