June 11 (UPI) — The first of 32 operational TH-73A training helicopters was delivered to the U.S. Navy this week in a ceremony in Philadelphia.
The first helicopter was presented to the Navy on Thursday at the manufacturing facility of AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corp., a U.S. subsidiary of the Italian aerospace company Leonardo.
The Navy plans to acquire a total of 130 single-engine TH-73As through 2024, and 32 during the current Fiscal Year, to replace its aging fleet of TH-57B/C Sea Ranger aircraft, in contracts potentially worth $648 million.
“This delivery signifies a new era for Naval Aviation training,” Rear Adm. Robert Westendorff, Chief of Naval Aviation Training, said in a press release.
“By using current cockpit technologies and a new training curriculum, the TH-73A will improve pilot training and skills, and ensure rotary wing aviators are produced more efficiently at a higher quality and are ready to meet the fleet’s challenges,” Westendorff said.
The TH-73A, based on Leonardo’s commercial AW119Kx, will serve as the Undergraduate Advanced Helicopter Training System for student aviators of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and NATO allies.
The Navy fleet will be housed at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla., where a helicopter maintenance hangar is under construction.
“The TH-73A will be instrumental in providing higher fidelity training to our future rotary-wing and tilt-rotor aviators for the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard,” Vice Adm. Kenneth Whitesell, Commander, Naval Air Forces, said in the release.
“The cutting-edge technology and advanced avionics within the Advanced Helicopter Training System will enable a more seamless transition from the training aircraft to fleet aircraft, this in turn allows more focus on high end warfighting development and training,” Whitesell said.
In its military configuration, the TH-73A includes space for sniper rifles, several mounted machine guns and rocket launcher tubes — in addition to carrying up to seven people.
The civilian version of the helicopter is currently in use by the governments of Brazil and Mexico, the border patrols of Latvia and Finland, the police departments of New York City and Phoenix and in rescue operations in Australia and Malaysia.
The air forces of Algeria, Israel, Bangladesh and Ecuador also have military versions.