Leonardo remain “incredibly optimistic” about the success of its bid to build the AW149 helicopter at its Yeovil plant, the only onshore helicopter manufacturer in the UK.
“We are not considering the fact we won’t be there,” explained Alessandro Profumo, CEO. His optimism pre-empts a Ministry of Defence (MoD) decision on the next New Medium Helicopter (NMH) to enter service by 2025, with the Leonardo-built AW149 a contender (competing against, amongst others, the Airbus H175M and the Sikorsky S70i. Of Leonardo’s total workforce of 50,413, 15 percent are UK-based; a number set to rise should their contract bid prove successful.
Although noting the successful completion of the first batch of an Italian-built Polish AW149 order, Leonardo would expect its Yeovil plant to fulfil export orders as well as British demand in the future. This would symbolise the ‘end of the line’ for AW149 production at the Verigate facility in Italy, although Leonardo is confident that manufacturing capacity at the “very busy” site will switch to other types (including the AW139 and AW169).
A second phase of the NMH bid is expected to take place later this year. Adam Clarke, managing director of Leonardo Helicopters UK, previously said: “From the outset of this competition, Leonardo has committed to the establishment of an AW149 production line at our Yeovil site. This investment into the line is our company’s ‘declaration of readiness’ to support the UK MoD in its requirement to have the NMH in-service in 2025. Furthermore, this investment further de-risks our programme and highlights our willingness to support the UK customer now, should Leonardo be successful with its bid.”
by Charlotte Bailey, Farnborough