Latest TH-73A order set to complete planned US Navy fleet

The US Department of Defense (DOD) has awarded a contract modification to AgustaWestland Philadelphia – a subsidiary of Leonardo – exercising an option to acquire a further 26 TH-73A Thrasher training helicopters for the US Navy.

The awarding of this firm-fixed-price contract modification, which is worth $110.5m, was announced by the US DOD on December 23, 2022. This modification to the already awarded Advanced Helicopter Training System (AHTS) contract will result in 26 new-build TH-73As manufactured under Production Lot 4, before being subsequently delivered to the US Navy as it continues to recapitalise its training helicopter fleet. Work will be carried out at AgustaWestland’s facility in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and is expected to be completed by December 2024.

The US Navy's first TH-73A Thrasher (BuNo 170138 '610') arrives at NAS Whiting Field in Milton, Florida, on August 6, 2021.
The US Navy's first TH-73A Thrasher (BuNo 170138 '610') arrives at NAS Whiting Field in Milton, Florida, on August 6, 2021. US Navy/Lt Michelle Tucker

Based on Leonardo Helicopters’ AW119Kx, the TH-73A was selected as the US Navy’s new-generation training helicopter under the AHTS programme on January 13, 2020. In operational service, the Thrasher will replace the Navy’s ageing fleet of Bell TH-57B/C Sea Rangers, which have been used to train helicopter and tiltrotor pilots from the US Coast Guard, US Marine Corps and US Navy since 1968.

This recent contract award brings the number of Thrashers on order to 130, in line with the US Navy’s planned program of record for the type. An initial contract – worth $177m – for the production and delivery of the first 32 TH-73As was awarded to AgustaWestland Philadelphia following the type’s selection in January 2020. This deal also included the provision of spares, dedicated equipment, related support and pilot/maintenance training services.

In November, that year, the US DOD exercised options to procure an additional 36 aircraft as part of a $171m fixed-price contract, which was followed by a third contract – worth $159m – for a further 36 airframes under Production Lot 3 in December 2021, bring the total number on order to 104. The December 2022 contract for the remaining 26 aircraft will take the number of TH-73As ordered to 130 and the Navy is not expected to make any follow-on orders.

The first TH-73A was delivered to NAS Whiting Field in August 2021. Equipped with an advanced digital cockpit and glass displays, the new helicopter will make student training more reflective of operational fleet helicopters. Prior to using the Thrasher for student instruction, the Navy needed to develop and validate a new syllabus and qualify instructors to fly the required manoeuvres and profiles.