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On 4 June 2024 Leonardo and its Polish subsidiary, PZL-Świdnik, celebrated the opening of the production line for AW149 helicopters destined for the Polish armed forces and the launch of new, localised manufacturing activities fulfilling the company’s commitment to the new helicopter programme.

The official opening ceremony for the line, located in Świdnik, eastern Poland, took place in the presence of representatives and dignitaries from national and local institutions, Leonardo, PZL-Świdnik and partner companies.

The Polish armed forces contract for 32 AW149s was signed in Świdnik in 2022 and also covers the integration of the helicopter’s systems, dedicated armament, future modernisation and technical support through the entire life cycle of the Polish AW149 fleet. The very first Polish AW149s were produced in Vergiate, Italy, where Polish workers took on-the-job training and secured timely deliveries within a tight time schedule, handing over helicopters 15 months after the contract signing. The majority of the Polish armed forces’ AW149s, however, will be produced in Poland.

“The new production line is an accelerator of change, as it was when PZL-Świdnik became a centre of excellence for helicopter aerostructure and contributed to the launch of the AW139 programme several years ago,” Leonardo stated in a press release. “Now, slightly more than a decade [later], the revenues of PZL-Świdnik have more than quadrupled, generating greater export sales and an expanding technological and product base. The Świdnik-based business has grown significantly over the years by acquiring new contracts, leveraging technological and capability investments guaranteed by Leonardo, to become a solid player in the competitive market.

Leonardo sees PZL-Świdnik – the only helicopter OEM in Poland – as a main pillar in its helicopter business.

“Today, PZL-Świdnik is one of the three most important research centres worldwide at Leonardo, where activities such as full-scale fatigue tests are carried out,” the company stated. “PZL-Świdnik’s leading role on the domestic market and continuous investment allows PZL laboratories to be available for SMEs, facilitating open innovation and the development of Polish industry. The newly launched production line of the AW149 is one of the key powers to spin not only the development of PZL-Świdnik, but the entire Polish economy.”

Gian Piero Cutillo, managing director of Leonardo Helicopters, was quoted by the company as saying, “PZL-Świdnik is an example of the highest level of excellence within our organisation, obtaining very good results in all areas, and has great potential for further development. In line with this, there are growing requirements for our company based in Świdnik to continue to evolve from a manufacturer to a key market player that manages complex contracts and deliveries. The Polish AW149 programme is a clear example of this today. The localisation of industrial and logistical capabilities for these new helicopters to meet Poland’s needs, leverage the long established and unique capabilities of PZL-Świdnik and its professional skills combined with the outstanding operational capabilities of the AW149s, will deliver unparalleled advantages to the country.”

Most of the 32 AW149s ordered by the Polish armed forces will be produced in Poland by PZL-Świdnik, which Leonardo now sees as a main pillar in its helicopter business. (Photo: Leonardo)