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Pacific 2019: Leonardo postures AWHero for Australia's SEA 129 Phase 5

A mock-up of the AWHero on display at Pacific 2019 (IHS Markit/Ridzwan Rahmat)

A mock-up of the AWHero on display at Pacific 2019 (IHS Markit/Ridzwan Rahmat)

Leonardo Helicopters is positioning its AWHero rotary-wing unmanned aircraft system (UAS) for the Australian Department of Defence’s SEA 129 Phase 5 programme, the company confirmed with Jane’s at the Pacific 2019 maritime exposition in Sydney.

The programme seeks to equip the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN’s) future Arafura and Hunter classes of vessels with embarked UAS capabilities.

Leonardo’s AWHero has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 200 kg, including payload and fuel at 85 kg. It has an endurance time of six hours, a service ceiling of 14,000 ft, and a maximum cruise speed of 90 kt.

The vehicle is powered by heavy fuels, including JP-5, JP-8, and Jet A-1, and has a maximum operating radius of up to 50 n miles, with options to upgrade it to 100 n miles when auxiliary fuel tanks are carried. The system features automatic deck landing and take-off capabilities.

The AWHero has two modular payload bays. Its nose bay can be incorporated with electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) turrets of up to 10 inches in diameter, or EO/IR turrets of up to 8 inches in diameter with radar.

Meanwhile, its underbelly and side bays payload space can be mounted with heavier equipment including the Visual Detection and Ranging (ViDAR) sensor payload from Sentient Vision Systems.

“The main differentiator between the AWHero and other competitors vying for the same programme is that ours is the only one that is backed by a helicopter manufacturer instead of a UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] manufacturer,” said Michael Lenton, executive chairman of Leonardo Australia, in an interview with Jane’s at Pacific 2019.

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