Italian army unveils new details on its future AH-249 combat helicopter

Following our 2017 preview, here are more details on the new AH-249 NEES combat helicopter.

Italian Army AH249 NEES helicopter
AH-249 scout and escort helicopter.

The new AH-249 scout and escort helicopter (Nuovo Elicottero da Esplorazione e Scorta - NEES) is the platform intended to replace the 'thirty-year-old' AH-129D Mangusta helicopter in the Italian Army (Esercito Italiano) fleet.

NEES is a state-of-the-art system that will provide the armed force with greater performance in terms of autonomy, speed, protection and engagement capacity. The development of the AH-249 began in 2017 following the agreement signed between the Italian Defense and Leonardo.

With the acquisition of the NEES, the Italian Army aims at a helicopter that, based on the experience gained over decades of missions in various operational theaters, is able to provide adherent and precise support to the forces in the battlefield.

The development of the AH-249, still in progress, is characterized by a wide spectrum research of advanced technological solutions that will allow the integration of the latest generation systems, sensors and equipment in the machine and to provide the armed force with a performing asset, safe and interoperable with land, air and naval, national and NATO military units, even in a net-centric environment.

The evolutions, however, do not end there. The Army is also evaluating the possibility of implementing Future Fast Rotorcraft (FFR) technologies on the machine that are being developed under other international programs.

Italian Army AH249 NEES helicopter


- pilot stations: in tandem (pilot in the rear station, co-pilot-shooter in the front station);
- engine: two General Electrics/AVIO CT7-8E6 engines (~ 2500 horsepower each) + Auxiliary Power Unit (APU);
- maximum take-off weight: ~ 7500/8000 kg
- rotors: 5-blade main rotor and 4-blade tail rotor;
- cruising speed: ~ 140 knots;
- autonomy: at least 3 hours;
- impact of meteorological conditions: operation without limitations from -30° to +50° and ability to fly in dusty, snowy, salty environments and in the presence of light ice formations;
- armament:
- 20mm gun TM-197B;
- ballistic and laser-guided rockets with the possibility of targeting both before and after launch;
- Air-to-ground missiles;
- Air-to-Air missiles.
- C4 and avionics:
- Software Defined Radio (SDR) radio equipment for Line of Sight (LOS) and Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) multi-band communications in HF and SATCOM bands, both in clear and encrypted;
- Tactical Data Link: Variable Message Format (VMF) and LINK-16;
- interoperability with the C2 systems of the Armed Force and within the "Forza NEC" program;
- obstacle detection system and terrain elevation profile during flight;
- navigation aid systems (TACAN, VOR-ILS, DME, etc.);
- Integrated Battlefield Management System (BMS);
- image and video reception-transmission system from external sources, such as JTAC or drones, or from its own observation and aiming unit;
- LTE device, to receive-transmit weather data and flight information in real time.
- interoperability with remotely piloted aircraft (APR): the crew will be able to check the electro-optical - sensor of the tactical APR and set routes/waypoints to be followed by it;
- observation and aiming unit equipped with:
- sensors for day, night and thermal vision;
- different types of lasers to illuminate, indicate, receive the targets and guide any laser-guided ammunition of other assets.
- helmet: with the ability to show symbols and information on the visor relating to:
- navigation and surrounding area, also using augmented reality technologies;
- helicopter piloting and systems;
- target and aiming/enslavement of weapon systems;
- helicopter sensors (superimposition of images from the various sensors and from the observation and aiming unit).
- ability to dock, refuel, rearm and re-take off (FARP) from naval units.

Source, Images: Italian Army

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