The Leonardo Helicopters AW249 is an attack helicopter project under development by the Italian firm Leonardo S.p.A.
Development of the AW249 formally started upon receipt of a €487 million contract from the Italian Army as a replacement for the Agusta A129 Mangusta.
It is to be larger, more survivable, and have greater autonomy than the Mangusta, incorporating stealth technologies and mission systems to control unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)s.
Numerous mature technologies will also be incorporated, such as the OTO Melara TM197B 20 mm chin-mounted cannon, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Toplite targeting system and Spike missile, it is intended for the AW249 to have lower operating costs than the preceding Mangusta.
Leonardo is actively seeking partners to collaborate on the AW249; a letter of intent on this matter was signed with the Polish Armaments Group during July 2018.
The maiden flight of the AW249 was originally scheduled to take place during 2020 but flew for the first time on 12 August 2022 from the company’s plant in Vergiate.
There are to be a single prototype and three pre-serial production rotorcraft built ahead of quantity production AW249s.
As per the original timetable released in 2017, the AW249 was to be in service by 2025 to enable the retirement of the Mangusta to commence.
The Leonardo Helicopters AW249 is to be a modern attack helicopter.
It is intended to be more survivable and have a greater offensive capability than the Mangusta, being provisioned for greater autonomy, as well as to use the latest available digital communications and battlefield management systems.
Amongst other abilities, the mission system will be capable of remotely operating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)s, and incorporate numerous situational awareness aids as to reduce pilot workload and increase safety.
The AW249 is to have an open architecture, easing the integration of mission systems from various suppliers with the onboard avionics.
The AW249 is to be equipped with electro-optical countermeasures and other self-defence systems, such as the DIRCM (Direct InfraRed Counter Measures) ELT\577 QUIRIS and the ELT\162 radar warning receiver.
Leonardo has indicated the rotorcraft will be stealthier than its predecessor, possessing both a reduced radar cross-section and a suppressed infrared signature.
Furthermore, the AW249 is to possess lower operating costs than the A129, which is said to be achievable through the application of newer technology and design improvements.
The Italian Ministry of Defence has required the incorporation of mature technologies such as the OTO Melara TM197B 20mm chin-mounted cannon, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Toplite targeting system and Spike missile from the A129; the rotorcraft will be furnished with a flexible weapon system comprising six-wing store stations that can carry a combination of air-to-ground or air-to-air missiles, unguided/guided rockets or external fuel tanks.
An Italian Army presentation at a 2017 conference in Kraków showed a MTOW of 7–8 tonnes, higher than the 5 tonne of the AW129; it also had more than double the weapons load from 800 kg to almost 2,000 kg, as well as increased cruise speed, ceiling and endurance.
The majority of the dynamic elements, such as the transmission and rotors, were derived from those of the AgustaWestland AW149 medium-sized utility helicopter.
Early on in development, two powerplants were considered for use on the AW249, the General Electric T700 and the Safran Aneto turboshaft engines, the latter having been recently selected for the commercial AgustaWestland AW189K.
In February 2021, it was announced that the Italian Army had selected General Electric to supply its T700 engine for the AW249.