Leonardo wins $176.5M contract, plans to build 100,000-sq-ft facility in Milton

Posted on January 14, 2020 by Staff reports

The support center is expected to create around 50 jobs. Graphic courtesy Leonardo.

Santa Rosa County officials are celebrating a huge win after the U.S. Navy announced yesterday a $176.5-million contract to AgustaWestland Philadelphia Corporation (Leonardo), which in turn plans to construct an approximately 100,000 square-foot facility at Whiting Aviation Park, which is owned by the county and adjacent to NAS Whiting Field in Milton. 

“That’s phenomenal,” said Santa Rosa County District 4 Commissioner Dave Piech upon hearing the news. “It’s a great thing for economic development and jobs.”

Santa Rosa County Economic Development Director Shannon Ogletree on Tuesday said he was excited about the news. “Landing this project in Santa Rosa County will become a game changer for us in term of being on the map for aviation companies. Companies like Leonardo see the value of building in Northwest Florida with the aviation clusters, retirees and work force,” he said.

Ogletree also noted it’s the first project which will be constructed in Whiting Aviation Park, which received $8.5 million for development from Triumph Gulf Coast, which oversees the expenditure of funds recovered as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“If it wasn’t for Triumph funding to build out this park, it wouldn’t have happened. We are entirely grateful to the Triump board for believing in this project,” Ogletree said, pointing out that Space Florida also provided support for the project. “Space Florida offers benefits to companies that other states don’t offer.”

Leonardo’s contract is for production of 32 TH-73A helicopters in support of the Advanced Helicopter Training System (AHTS) program, according to the U.S. Navy. 

 The new helicopters will replace the 35-year-old TH-57s, which are becoming more difficult to maintain due to obsolescence and lack the appropriate cockpit avionics and aircraft performance capability. The phase out will begin in fiscal year 2022 and conclude in fiscal year 2024.

“Today marks a great team effort to procure and deliver a helicopter trainer for the next generation of helicopter and tilt-rotor pilots for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard,” said James F. Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition.  “I’m proud of the aggressive work the team did to leverage the commercial industrial base to get this capability to the war fighters, and our nation, at the best value to the taxpayer.  This effort is key to ensure the readiness of our Naval Aviators for decades to come.”

Five proposals were submitted for the contract. The new firm fixed price TH-73A contract was awarded on a best-value, trade-off basis with a base and three one-year options. The base year contract is for $176.5 M for 32 aircraft. The total contract value is $648.1 M for the procurement of 130 aircraft. Helicopter deliveries are scheduled to begin in calendar year 2020 and continue through calendar year 2024.

The new helicopter will meet advanced rotary wing and intermediate tilt-rotor training requirements for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard through 2050.  The TH-73A will be manufactured in United States with assembly taking place, through FAA Airworthiness certification, in the contractor’s FAA Part 21 facility in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In addition to the TH-73A, the contract includes initial spares, peculiar support equipment, flyaway kits, hoists, sling loads, data in excess of Commercial Form Fit Function (FFF) / Operations Maintenance Instructional Training (OMIT) Data, as well as ancillary instructor pilot & maintenance personnel training. The award is the culmination of a competitive source selection process supported by personnel from the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and the Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA).

TH-73A deliveries are scheduled to begin in calendar year 2020 and continue through calendar year 2024. Photo courtesy Leonardo.

“The new Leonardo TH-73A helicopters are the cornerstone of AHTS, which is the planned replacement to address the capability and capacity gaps of the current aging TH-57 Sea Ranger helicopter training platform,” said Capt. Todd St. Laurent, Naval Undergraduate Flight Training Systems (PMA-273) Program Manager.  “The TH-73A will provide a modern helicopter training platform that will serve rotary and tiltrotor training requirements into the foreseeable future. These new helicopters will ensure the Navy has capacity to train several hundred aviation students per year at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field in Milton, Florida.”  PMA-273, at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, oversees AHTS.