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Discovering the AW249, The New Helicopter to Operate in Future Multi-Domain Scenarios

Two prototypes are flying, and two are in final assembly: the AW249 was created for multi-domain scenarios and future operational contexts, in response to the growing need for cross-platform collaboration. The new helicopter was created thanks to an "agile" process – which allowed improvements and technological innovations to be made directly in the development phase – and is the result of a close synergy between the Italian Ministry of Defence and Leonardo.

Due to an increasingly frequent combination of conventional, asymmetric and hybrid threats, the speed of technological evolution and changing scenarios require the integration of information across all domains (earth, sea, sky, space, and cyberspace). The AW249 helicopter, intended for highly complex operations, emerged from this context. Named FENICE by the Italian Army, it stands out for its “agile” development process, which permits constant updating in the various production stages.

Its development results from the synergy and constant dialogue between the Italian Ministry of Defence and Leonardo, which has led to technical solutions based on actual operational needs, such as hybrid and unconventional threats. A decisive factor in this regard was the cooperation between AW129 pilots from the Italian Army Aviation (AVES) and Leonardo test pilots.

The Mission Task Simulator (MTS) was then used to optimise the Human Machine Interface (HMI) and minimise the crew’s workload monitoring stress during mission simulations in various operational contexts.

The AW249 is designed to operate in complex and congested scenarios, in increasingly interconnected information and communication environments characterised by high-threat profiles (kinetic, cyber, and cognitive). These are so-called peer or near-peer scenarios, by which the threat has comparable levels of organisation and capabilities. They involve hard-to-reach strategic geographical areas, referred to as A2/AD bubbles (Anti Access/Area Denial).

Requirements of this type ensure the use of FENICE based on the logic and concept of multi-domain operations. For this reason, the helicopter is designed to offer a series of ‘native’ capabilities, already present in the aircraft which will be delivered to the Italian Army in 2027.



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