By Elifnur Başaran
As reported by Key Aero, the AW249 which is developed by Leonardo Helicopters with the aim of replacing the obsolete A129 Mangusta attack helicopters, made its maiden flight. The first flight of the AW249 was expected to take place in September 2022 at the latest.
Leonardo Helicopters started the development of the AW249 following the signing of a $487 million contract with the Italian Ministry of Defense that includes the development and supply of a helicopter that can replace A129 helicopters.
Compared to the A129 Mangusta, the AW249 approaches the heavy class with a payload capacity of 1800 kg and a maximum take-off weight of 8 tons; It uses two GE CT-78E6 turboshaft engines with approximately 2583 shp each. In this way, the AW249 will have a much higher power-to-weight ratio compared to the A129, which uses 2 890 shp Rolls-Royce Gem 2-1004D turboshaft engines that it will replace.
The weapon load of the AW249, which has 3 weapon stations on each wing and has the ability to carry asymmetrically, is expected to consist of SPIKE series anti-tank missiles, air-to-air missiles (AIM-9 Sidewinder at the wingtips or AIM-92 Stinger under the wing etc.), and OTO Melara TM-197B 20 mm. rockets or guided missiles.
In addition to increased flight performance and payloads, another prominent feature of the AW249 is Manned-Unmanned Cooperation. It is aimed to provide coordinated operation capability with various UAV systems with the co-pilot panel designed with the said capability. To give an example of the advantages of this type of use, a nearby UAV can perform surveillance and target marking while the helicopter is crested, or the circulating munitions can be coordinated by the helicopter to provide supporting firepower.
Alongside the Italian Army, Poland is also interested in the AW249 to replace the Mi-24 Hind fleet. As reported by MilitaryLeak, in 2019 Leonardo Helicopters and PGZ signed a declaration of intention on the design, production and after-sales logistics support of the AW249.