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​DSEI 2019: Leonardo stiffens up over AW149 Egyptian order

13th September 2019 - 13:03 GMT | by Tim Martin in London

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Manufacturer Leonardo is still unwilling to confirm that a reported order of 20 AW149 helicopters to Egypt has been completed, or that any negotiations about a prospective deal are currently taking place.

Production aircraft are currently being assembled for military operators and the model is in service, though the company has not disclosed which party is using the helicopters – despite the Royal Thai Army initially set to become a launch customer by way of an order for five of the 8t-class type, placed in 2016.

‘We are not at liberty to say which country [has put the AW149 into service] due to commercial confidentiality with that customer,’ Tony Duthie, head of land and maritime marketing at Leonardo, confirmed.

Similarly, on the subject of negotiations with the Egyptian MoD, he stated: ‘I couldn’t possibly comment on that. It’s commercially sensitive who we do business with…until the customer makes an announcement.’

A number of militaries are being targeted for sales of the multirole, multi-mission helicopter, with active dialogue on that front currently taking place and a hope that ‘some announcements’ can be made in the future, Duthie revealed, however.

The UK is looked upon as a prime AW149 customer, despite the UK MoD not having any formal requirements for the aircraft.

‘The Puma is getting on a bit. If you look at the future environment, if you look at the future battlefield, it will be a very different place to where helicopters have traditionally operated, so a more modern, multi-mission, network-enabled aircraft is now going to be required,’ Duthie explained. ‘The AW149 fits that bill extremely well.’

Replacing a fleet of 23 UK Pumas would be a hugely significant piece of business if secured, but however unlikely an imminent order appears, should a future deal be struck, production is slated to take place at the OEM’s Yeovil facility.

‘At the moment we are well through the Merlin life sustainment programme, the changing of the Mk3/3As to the Mk4/4a [configuration] for the Royal Navy…we can slot in AW149s very easily,’ Duthie confirmed.

He also suggested that a drought of AW149 European orders, to this point, has mainly been down to ‘a lot of’ governments 'working through' NH90 programmes - something with which Leonardo is involved. 

'I'd rather not speculate [on when the company could see a first European order],' he stated.

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