Australian Army receives first leased AW139

Deliveries of Leonardo AW139 rotorcraft to the Australian Army Air Corps (AAAC) have recently commenced under the Army Interim Commercial Helicopter Capability (AICH) programme.

The AAAC’s first AICH AW139 – registration VH-YBF (c/n 31756, formerly known as N886WM, B-70TN, I-EASW) – arrived at Hamel Lines, RAAF Base Townsville, Queensland, to join the 5th Aviation Regiment on April 30. The four-year old helicopter has been leased from Helicorp Pty Ltd (trading as Toll Helicopters), to which it was registered on March 31.

While the platform is operated by the AAAC, it will retain its civil registration. However, it has already been painted in an overall gloss white colour scheme with ‘ARMY’ titles and the classic Kangaroo logo, which is synonymous with military aircraft employed in Australian service. It will also be flown by AAAC aircrews.

AW139 [Commonwealth of Australia-Department of Defence/Capt Bethany Gallagher]
A Helicorp (or Toll Helicopters) Leonardo Helicopters AW139 - serial VH-YBF - arrives at Hamel Lines, RAAF Base Townsville, Queensland, on April 30. This leased aircraft is one of at least two examples that will be operated by the Australian Army Air Corps' (AAAC's) 5th Aviation Regiment. Commonwealth of Australia-Department of Defence/Capt Bethany Gallagher

The 5th Aviation Regiment’s commanding officer, Lt Col Christopher McDougall; Regimental Sergeant Major Warrant Officer Class One Jason Jarvis; and officer commanding Bravo Squadron, Maj Nicholas Ludwick, welcomed the leased helicopter to the unit. Col Hayden Archibald, Director Aviation Capability Management (DACM) at Headquarters Forces Command, was also in attendance to support the establishment of the contract at its operational regiment.

Col Archibald said: “Leasing a helicopter capability is a novel concept for us in Army Aviation. This presents a unique opportunity for our people to operate a modern advanced aircraft that will provide a valuable level of support to the wider army, Australian Defence Forces (ADF) and Australian community as required.”

In operational service, the helicopter will support the wider ADF by providing general aviation support services. Such missions include the transportation of cargo and personnel during major exercises, as well as the training of ADF units in helicopter operations and other non-combat tasks.

At least two (or possibly three) AW139s are involved in the AICH programme. The second helicopter is believed to be VH-YBG (c/n 31769, formerly known as N886TB, B-70TM, I-EASZ) and was built in 2017. As with VH-YBF, this helicopter was registered to Helicorp on March 31.

The helicopters are being leased under Plan Corella, which was launched in October 2020, when the aerospace industry was asked to submit offers to meet the AICH requirement. In AAAC service, the AW139s will complement the 5th Aviation Regiment’s fleet of NHIndustries MRH-90 Taipan medium-lift tactical transport helicopters by providing a set number of flying hours per annum for an initial period of two years.