The Austrian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has exercised a contract option to procure 18 additional AW169M light utility helicopters (LUH) from Italian defence company Leonardo.

The contract was signed between Leonardo and the Directorate for Air Armaments and Airworthiness, assigned under the Italian Secretariat General of Defence/National Armaments Directorate.

Signed on 19 January, the new contract has an estimated value of €304m.

The latest deal has been finalised after a recently signed government-to-government (G2G) agreement between Italy and Austria.

It primarily aimed to strengthen the strategic bilateral partnership between the two nations, specifically in the rotorcraft sector.

Under this bilateral agreement signed in December last year, Austria has exercised the additional contract options to procure more Leonardo-built LUH platforms for its armed forces.

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By GlobalData

This brings the total number of AW169M LUH procured by the Austrian MoD to 36.

The company is scheduled to complete the delivery of all the utility aircraft by 2028.

Leonardo has already handed over the first aircraft to the Austrian MoD last month during a formal ceremony.

The delivery further marks the company’s first export of the AW169M variant of LUH under a G2G programme.

According to Leonardo, the Austrian forces have already started receiving initial training at the company’s Italy-based Training Academy in Sesto Calende, where the crews can also leverage the Italian Army’s training capabilities as an AW169M operator.

The new helicopters are being procured to replace Austria’s existing fleet of Alouette III aircraft, which have been in service for nearly six decades.

Austria will deploy AW169M LUHs to carry out various defence and emergency support missions including disaster relief, combat operations, troop transport, fire-fighting mountain rescue, and medical evacuation.

In 2020, Leonardo delivered one AW169 LUH to the Italian Army.