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“New era” in the armed forces: “Leonardo” helicopters in regular operation

“New era” in the armed forces: “Leonardo” helicopters in regular operation
The new AW 169 Leonardo helicopter is intended to replace the Alouette III.
Image: (APA/HBF/CARINA KARLOVITS)

With this status, which certifies the operational readiness of both the helicopters and the crew, technicians and their equipment, the helicopters are capable of, among other things, transporting people.

At the end of 2023, the training of the introduction team consisting of ten military pilots was completed in Italy. As part of the system introduction, the helicopters completed over 850 flight hours. The project team will now hand them over to the air force, where they will begin regular flight operations.

Assistance deployment and disaster control

This marks the end of the era of the “Alouette III”, which is being withdrawn from operational service after 55 years, Tanner explained at a press conference at the Upper Styrian Fiala-Fernbrugg air base in Aigen im Ennstal: “An era is coming to an end and a new one is beginning. “

From now on, the AW169 can be used in assistance operations and disaster control and can take over the tasks of the decommissioned “Alouette III”, such as transporting people and troops, operating winches and transporting external loads of up to 1,000 kilograms, explained the commander of the air force, Brigadier Gerfried Promberger Procurement of the AW196 was described as a “flagship project in the area of ​​the development plan”.

Training in Italy

The pilots’ basic training will continue to take place in Italy until further notice. The advanced training can now be carried out here in Austria with the flight trainers, says Promberger. The helicopters will subsequently be stationed in Langenlebarn and Aigen. The “Air Chief” is pleased that in the future there will only be a two-fleet system with the “Leonardo” and “Black Hawk”, “which will simplify operations and logistics immensely”.

In 2024, the pilots’ further training will include the areas of type training, external landing, formation flight, high mountain landing, low-level flight, night vision flight and instrument flight, explained the commander of air support, Brigadier Wolfgang Luttenberger. Full operational capability, including all military capabilities, should ultimately be achieved in 2028.

Nine new helicopters by the end of the year

To date, five AW169s have been delivered, and a sixth example is expected to land in Austria in the first quarter, according to Tanner. Another three will follow by the end of the year, meaning that a total of nine helicopters will be available to the air force by the end of 2024.

Tanner once again described the project as a “successful model” that should serve as a “role model” for further procurement. The Defense Minister emphasized that she expects the ongoing procurement of the four new C-390 transport aircraft from the Brazilian manufacturer Embraer as a successor to the aging Hercules transport aircraft to have “the same professional processing and implementation.”

But there will also be “massive” investment in the Upper Styrian air base Fiala-Fernbrugg in Aigen im Ennstal, says Tanner. A total of around 47 million euros will be spent on this, for example a separate type shipyard will be built for the AW169. The Styrian regional councilor Werner Amon (ÖVP) was pleased with this. This means the location is secured.

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