Leonardo Helicopters has delivered the first of 130 TH-73A training helicopters to the US Navy at its facility in Philadelphia, US.

In January last year, Leonardo was awarded an initial contract of approximately $177m for 32 TH-73A aircraft by the US Department of Defense (DoD).

The DoD exercised options for an additional 36 helicopters in November the same year. The contract modification was valued at another $171m.

The new helicopters will replace the 35-year-old ageing TH-57 Sea Ranger training platform.

Leonardo CEO Alessandro Profumo said: “Today’s event marks a significant milestone for Leonardo, marking our growing effort and commitment to becoming not just a supplier, but a partner and strategic asset for the United States in several sectors.

“We are proud to be a core contributor to the future of US defence.”

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The TH-73A is based on the Instrument Flight Rules (IFR)-certified variant of the commercial AW119Kx.

It will serve as the Undergraduate Advanced Helicopter Training System (AHTS) for current and future student aviators for the US Navy (USN), US Marine Corps (USMC), US Coast Guard and Nato allies.

Equipped with a Pratt & Whitney PT-6 engine, the AHTS will modernise navy training technology, taking it from analogue to digital.

It is designed to serve aviation students until 2050 or longer.

Leonardo Helicopters managing director Gian Piero Cutillo said: “The US Navy expects the highest quality of training for its future aviators.

“We are honoured to start delivery of the product chosen for this critical task. Today is just the beginning of a journey we have undertaken to support the navy as it shapes the capabilities of future generations of aviation students.”

Furthermore, Leonardo said it will open a 100,000ft² centre in Milton, Florida to provide customer support and maintenance services at Whiting Aviation Park.