Leonardo set to open AW149 production line at Yeovil to boost UK medium helicopter supply


Leonardo has started to establish its production line for the latest generation battlefield helicopter, the AW149 helicopter. This latest multi-million pound investment by the company in its land facilities makes Leonardo’s bid for the UK’s New Medium Helicopter (NMH) even more competitive by ensuring the company is ready to field the AW149. by 2025, if selected by the UK Ministry of Defense (MOD).

The MoD’s stated goal is to bring the NMH into service by 2025. If Leonardo is successful in winning the competition, its existing helicopter design and engineering site in Yeovil will have the infrastructure and skills immediately available to deliver within this ambitious deadline.

The NMH competition is proceeding at a brisk pace, with Leonardo submitting its response to the UK MOD Defense Equipment & Support (DE&S) Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) in June. The company believes it has the strongest commercial and social value offering of the competition with a platform that meets the capability requirements of the UK Armed Forces.

Gian Piero Cutillo, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters, said: “We have already trained engineers in Yeovil to specialize in AW149 production. We have also made the necessary infrastructure investments to be ready for the localized build of the AW149s, leveraging commonalities with the AW189 that we previously produced locally in Yeovil.

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“The proactive refresh of these capabilities provides further evidence of our strong commitment to providing the best onshore offering for the NMH program. If the AW149 is chosen by the UK MOD, our off-the-shelf capability would ensure that our production ramp-up, risk reduction, cost savings and aircraft lead times are unmatched.

Adam Clarke, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters UK, said: “From the start of this competition, Leonardo was committed to setting up an AW149 production line at our Yeovil site. This investment in the line is our company’s ‘statement of readiness’ to support the UK MOD in its requirement to have the NMH in service by 2025. Additionally, this investment further reduces risk to our program and underlines our commitment to support UK customer. now, if Leonardo succeeded in his offer.

Leonardo at Yeovil currently supports the AW149 in service through the manufacture of the dynamics and transmission components that are on board the aircraft. The company will also draw on its experience building the AW189, which shares a common airframe baseline with the AW149. From 2014 to 2018, ten AW189 helicopters were built at Yeovil for the UK Search and Rescue Service operated by Bristow Helicopters.

In addition to having the same external footprint, the AW149 and AW189 share common engines, transmission, blades, digital automatic flight control systems and flight management system. Therefore, when Leonardo begins work on the first UK-made AW149, he will be able to draw on his existing engineering and manufacturing skills and knowledge.

Leonardo’s earlier preparatory work for its NMH offering has included skill sharing between the company’s helicopter facilities in the UK and Italy. The Italian teams hosted their colleagues from Yeovil to teach them the engineering skills and techniques used to build the latest generation AW149 battlefield helicopter.


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