Leonardo performed the maiden flight of the new AW249 attack helicopter on August 12, according to reports on social media. Images of the aircraft in flight were shared in recent days, showing the prototype still with the primer covering on the fuselage.
The AW249 has been in development since 2017 at the request of the Italian Ministry of Defense and will replace the AW129D Mangusta helicopters from 2025.
The initial contract includes five helicopters, but the Italian Army expects to have 48 units of the model.
The first flight of the AW240 took place at Leonardo’s facilities in Vergiate and lasted about 30 minutes. At least six other flights have taken place since then, according to witnesses.
Asked by Flight Global, Leonardo declined to comment, citing confidentiality at the customer’s request.
In principle, the AW249 was supposed to perform its maiden flight in September, according to manufacturer executives during Farnborough 2022, in July.
The new helicopter is far more capable than the Mangusta, with a maximum take-off weight of up to 8 tons. It can operate in any weather and reach a cruising speed of around 260 km/h. The AW249 is powered by two GE Aviation CT7-8E6 (T700) turboshaft engines, with a power output of 2,500hp (1,860kW) each.