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Leonardo’s Latest Milestone: US Navy Receives 41st TH-73A Thrasher Training Helicopter

AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corporation (Leonardo) has delivered approximately one-third of the TH-73A Thrasher training helicopters that the US Navy plans to purchase. The US Navy aims to acquire 130 Thrashers, and deliveries are expected to conclude by 2025. According to Janes, a defense news and analysis company, Leonardo is producing three to four TH-73As per month in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Jeffrey Ketcham, director of navy programs for Leonardo Helicopters, stated that the 41st helicopter was delivered on April 4. The program has largely recovered from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused workforce disruptions and production delays. On August 6, 2021, the first operational TH-73A “Thrasher” training helicopter arrived at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field in Milton.

The TH-73A is a modified version of the commercial Leonardo TH-119 helicopter. It serves as a replacement for the 35-year-old TH-57B and TH-57C models. The TH-73A incorporates a modern avionics suite with a fully integrated flight management system, automatic flight control system, and independent digital cockpit displays for both pilot stations. It offers improved performance in terms of power, speed, payload, and endurance compared to the Sea Ranger, making it comparable to fleet aircraft.

These upgrades will help bridge the capability and capacity gaps to better prepare newly trained naval aviators as they transition to fleet replacement squadrons for postgraduate training. The full Advanced Helicopter Training System (AHTS) includes aircrew training services that provide access to new simulators, an updated curriculum, and a new contractor logistics support contract for Thrasher maintenance support.

In June, the US Navy commenced instructor pilot training for the new TH-73A Advanced Helicopter Training System (AHTS). The first two instructor pilots from Training Air Wing (TAW) 5 received classroom and hands-on experience at the AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corporation (Leonardo) facility in Philadelphia. The TH-73A will be assigned to Training Air Wing (TW) 5, replacing the Chief of Naval Air Training’s (CNATRA) TH-57B/C Sea Ranger as the undergraduate training helicopter for the US Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Leonardo Helicopters is contracted to deliver an additional 31 Thrashers this year, bringing the total to 130 by 2024 before the scheduled retirement of the Sea Ranger in 2025. This will provide the Navy with the capacity to train several hundred aviation students annually.

The TH-73As will be temporarily housed in a hangar at NAS Whiting Field, while construction of a new helicopter maintenance hangar on the base is set to commence in 2023. Leonardo Helicopters has also established a TH-73A maintenance support team at Santa Rosa County’s new aviation customer service hangar at Peter Prince Airport in Milton. PMA-273 at Naval Air Systems in Patuxent River, Maryland, oversees the AHTS and TH-73A programs and will determine the final disposition of the 35-year-old TH-57 Sea Ranger, which is scheduled to retire between fiscal years 2022 and 2025. The TH-73A Thrasher is named after the brown thrasher, a bird commonly found in the skies over the Southeastern United States, including Northwest Florida. This inconspicuous yet territorial bird is known for its fearless defense and low-level flying skills.

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