Leonardo Helicopters plans to build AW149 helicopters using components solely from U.K.-based businesses if the company wins the $1.27 billion New Medium Helicopter contract from the UK Ministry of Defence.
According to the NMH contract notice published in 2022, the MOD intends to acquire between 36 and 44 aircraft to phase out existing rotorcraft systems for the UK army and strategic commands. A Breaking Defense report stated that the new helicopters would replace the Royal Air Force Puma HC2, Bell 212, Bell 412 and AS365 Dauphins aircraft fleets.
The MOD’s Defense in a Competitive Age report published in March 2021 identified the Puma HC2 fleet with challenges in operational capability.
In support of its bid, Leonardo established Team AW149 UK comprising companies from across the United Kingdom. The team was formed in September 2021 after the draft plan for the NMH procurement was released. Leonardo said an onshore supply chain, with a proposed new production line in Yeovil, will keep high-tech skills, research and intellectual property within the U.K.
Other companies shortlisted to compete for the billion-dollar contract are Airbus Helicopters, which offers its H175M aircraft in partnership with Boeing, and Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky, which proposes the S-70M Black Hawk.