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Hello, Helo

by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Brent Pyfrom, Defense Media Activity
13 July 2021

The Navy replaces its training helicopters roughly every 30 years and now is transitioning from its training fleet of Bell TH-57B/C Sea Rangers to the Leonardo TH-73A helicopters. 

Two pilots in the cockpit of a heliopter

The TH-73A will be the aircraft section of the Advanced Helicopter Training System (AHTS) which brings the training needed to create the next generations of rotary and tilt-rotor pilots.

“We held a competition to select the platform that best meets the Navy’s requirement for training,” said Capt. Holly Shoger, program manager of Naval Undergraduate Flight Training Systems (PMA-273). 

“The TH-73 meets all of the requirements that Training Wing Five needs to train their new pilots and prepare them for the fleet. We’re bringing in a new platform with an upgraded cockpit and it brings it closer to what the pilots will be flying in the fleet.”

The TH-73A helicopters will upgrade the areas where the Sea Rangers fell short, within the timeframe of 30 years of course. All rotary pilots of the Navy, Marines Corps and Coast Guard will train in them to qualify and get their wings through the AHTS. 

AHTS is the platform of helicopters, new simulators for the pilots to train, a new curriculum to sharpen what they’ve learned, and maintenance. Completion of this training will help the Navy improve its helicopter pilots’ skills.

“This delivery signifies a new era for Naval Aviation training,” said Rear Adm. Robert Westendorff, Chief of Naval Aviation Training. 

“By using current cockpit technologies and a new training curriculum, the TH-73A will improve pilot training and skills, and ensure rotary wing aviators are produced more efficiently at a higher quality and are ready to meet the fleet’s challenges.”

The Navy will have 130 of the Th-73’s in total around 2024. The aircraft provides a single type/model/series helicopter incorporating a modern avionics suite with a fully integrated flight management system, automatic flight control system, and independent, digital cockpit displays to both pilot stations. 

“The helicopter brings increased performance in power, speed, payload, and endurance making it much more comparable to fleet aircraft,” said Cmdr. Dustin Robbins, TW-5 AHTS Fleet Integration Team (FIT) Officer-In-Charge. 

“Additionally, the TH-73A provides increased night vision training capability through fully compatible cockpit lighting, an infrared searchlight, position lights, and formation lighting.”

To improve flight and crew safety, the TH-73A is equipped with a mid-air collision and terrain avoidance warning system, a cockpit voice and crash data recording system, crashworthy fuel cell, and stroking pilot seats.

Together, these advancements in control, navigation, operability, performance, and safety will ehance training capability and opportunity and ensure the Fleet Replacement Squadrons can spend less time on foundational skills and focus on the mission requirements for today’s Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard aviators.

“I think this is a great platform for students to fly,” said Shoger. “By using a commercial variant and adding several upgrades that were needed to better train our present fleet, students will learn skills that will transfer easily to other platforms across all services.”

“With its all-digital cockpit and fully integrated Flight Management System coupled with superior power and speed margins, the TH-73A is a lot of fun to fly,” said Robbins. 

“The simple cockpit design and layout, push-button and toggle switch interface, advanced navigation and communication capabilities, and rapid control response make it the ideal training aircraft and the perfect stepping stone to any service rotary wing platform.”

The Navy is continuing its mission of readiness and flexibility with new training helicopters, new pilots coming in and a new system of training that is always being improved. The campaign AHTS is soaring in is one small step in keeping this Navy unconquered. 

“As the helicopter future readiness provider for the Naval Aviation Enterprise, Chief of Naval Air Training and Training Air Wing FIVE, we are excited for the many advancements and increased training capabilities of the TH-73A and the Advanced Helicopter Training System as a whole,” said Robbins.