Austria Ministry of Defence placed an order for 18 AW169M Light Utility Helicopters (LUH) to replace the Austrian Air Force’s ageing Alouette III fleet, which has been in service since the 1960s. The acquisition contract, valued at €346m, was signed in Rome on January 12.
The contract was signed by Leonardo and the Directorate for Air Armaments and Airworthiness of the Italian Secretariat General of Defence/National Armaments Directorate in the framework of an Italian-Austrian Government-to-Government (G2G) agreement. The deal also includes options on a further 18 of these helicopters.
The 18 AW169M LUHs will comprise six ‘B’ variant training helicopters and 12 ‘MA’ advanced multi-role variants with integrated mission equipment and weapon systems, along with a comprehensive customised support and training package. Production will be undertaken at Leonardo’s Vergiate final assembly plant in northern Italy. Deliveries are scheduled to commence before the year-end and are expected to be completed by 2026.
The helicopters will be able to carry out a wide range of missions supporting Austrian defence requirements and the national community, including troop transport, combat operations, disaster relief and emergency response, firefighting, mountain rescue and MEDEVAC. Austrian crews will undergo initial training with the Italian Army, benefitting from its expertise as an AW169M LUH operator. It will also benefit from the supply of dedicated training and simulation devices.
The decision to buy 18 AW169Ms had first been announced on September 20, 2020, by Austrian Minister of Defence Klaudia Tanner. The Minister then followed this up with signature of a preliminary G2G document with Italian Minister of Defence, Lorenzo Guerini, on December 2, 2021, for collaboration on the procurement.