AgustaWestland signs support contract for South Africa’s AW109LUH fleet


AgustaWestland has signed a comprehensive service support contract for the South African Air Force’s fleet of AW109LUH helicopters. The annual contract includes the provision for it to be extended for up to five years.

Under the contract AgustaWestland will be responsible for the delivery and provision of spares, support equipment, D-Level maintenance as well as component repair and overhaul services. AgustaWestland will also provide an on-site support team, technical support services, training and technical publication updates under the comprehensive support contract.

Patrick Chabrat, Head of Regional Sales, AgustaWestland, said that, “This wide ranging support contract will maximise aircraft availability whilst providing through life support cost savings to the customer. The AW109LUH has proven itself to be an ideal multi-role helicopter for the South African Air Force and this contract will enhance the availability of the aircraft to perform the wide range of tasks it is assigned.”

The South African Air Force purchased 30 AW109 LUH helicopters. The South African Air Force aircraft feature a cockpit with three 6″ x 8″ flat screen digital displays which are Night Vision Goggle (NVG) compatible. The aircraft can be flown single-pilot IFR/IMC.

The A109LUH was purchased to replace the elderly Eurocopter SA-316/SA-319 Alouette III helicopters, which had been in service since 1962 in the light utility role. Delivery of the 30 A109 helicopters purchased from AgustaWestland under the R2.4 billion Project Flange commenced on October 19, 2005. Deliveries were beset with delays and difficulties and an option for a further ten was not exercised.

The SAAF required the type to take pressure off its Denel Oryx medium utility fleet. The Air Force has long had the need for a platform more capable than the Alouette III but less expensive and more efficient than the Oryx for the bulk of taskings. The A109 was expected to fill that niche.

Although the first five A109 aircraft were manufactured in Italy, the balance of the 25 helicopters was assembled by Denel Saab Aerostructures (today Denel Aerostructures). By 2008 deliveries were four years late, leading to the imposition of a R90 million penalty, the only one imposed under the “arms deal”. It has been reported that offsets were tardy and the platform has failed to live up to expectations – one criticism is that it is underpowered.

The AW109 LUH is operated by the armed forces of several nations including Sweden, South Africa, New Zealand and Malaysia.