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Leonardo and Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa S.A. (PGZ) signed a letter of intent (LOI) that will see the two companies collaborate on the AW249, the only new combat helicopter currently being designed, aiming to meet the Polish Army’s requirement for a new combat helicopter.
With this LOI, Leonardo and PGZ will explore collaboration in a number of areas including design, manufacturing, final assembly, marketing and after-sales support for the AW249 helicopter.
The document reinforces PGZ and Leonardo’s common interest in the development and production of a new combat helicopter, created for the needs of the Italian Army, and its Polish variant which is being considered under Poland’s “Kruk” procurement.
Thanks to this collaboration, Poland’s defense industry will have the unique opportunity to participate in a brand new helicopter development program, while at the same time contributing to the modernization plans of the Polish Armed Forces with a new state-of-the-art platform.
“This agreement is a significant milestone in the on-going cooperation between Italian and Polish defense industries, involving the latter in the most important ongoing combat helicopter program,” said Gian Piero Cutillo, managing director of Leonardo Helicopters. “Leonardo, through PZL-Swidnik, has been working with the Polish Ministry of National Defence for years and this agreement opens new avenues of response to the Kruk program, allowing us to address the future of Polish defense alongside PGZ.”
Jakub Skiba, president of the management board of PGZ, said, “Today’s agreement opens up new opportunities for PGZ Companies in the Aviation Domain. Cooperation with Italian industry in the joint development of solutions for our Armed Forces in the “Kruk” program will allow us to expand our capabilities and involve our companies – in close cooperation with Leonardo’s PZL-Swidnik plant – in the AW249 program. This high-technology program, led by Leonardo, will be also promoted in further markets.”
The AW249 will feature all the latest technology developments in its market segment and will benefit from the extensive operational expertise logged by Leonardo’s AW129 and the know-how of the company in this specific helicopter sector.
With a maximum take-off weight in the range of seven to eight tonnes and useful load in excess of 1,800 kg, the AW249 will have speed and endurance that is able to sustain the most difficult close air support and armed escort operations.
The AW249 will feature state-of-the-art communication and battlefield management systems; its mission system is able to operate and manage UAVs and features a number of situational awareness aids to reduce pilot workload and increase safety.
Additionally, thanks to its advanced technologies and design philosophy, the AW249 will have significant improvements in life-cycle costs over previous generation helicopters.
In addition to a turreted gun, the AW249 will have a flexible weapon system with 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. Two powerful engines will allow for operations in all environmental conditions (cold, hot & high and maritime).
Leonardo and PGZ have an established dialogue on defense and security industrial cooperation, with multiple agreements signed in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The aim of these agreements is to strengthen cooperation between the PGZ Group and Leonardo, particularly in relation to the helicopters offered by Leonardo to the Polish Ministry of Defence.
Should Leonardo be selected by the Polish MoD for the new helicopter requirements, companies in the PGZ Group will take part in the manufacture and servicing of helicopters.
Leonardo signed a multiyear contract with the Italian Ministry of Defence in January 2017, aimed at meeting the requirement of the Italian Army to replace the current fleet of AW129s, which are expected to be retired from service by 2026 following over 35 years in operations. It will allow the service to introduce an even more technologically advanced product, with greater performance and lower operating costs, to meet arising needs in evolving scenarios for the next 30 years.