The US Navy's TH-73A Thrasher will provide the capacity to train the single largest training pipeline for chief of naval aviation training at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Florida through 2050. The -73A is replacing the TH-57B/C Sea Ranger as the undergraduate rotary and tilt-rotor helicopter trainer for the service, the Marine Corps and Coast Guard. 

During HAI HELI-EXPO in Atlanta, leaders from Leonardo, the Thrasher OEM, and Frasca International, a key S&T industry partner, provided insights on the rapidly evolving training aircraft program.

The Platform 

The Thrasher entered service with the first of three training squadrons having transitioned from the TH-57 to the -73A in September 2022, 15 months after first delivery. The US Navy declared initial operational capability for the TH-73A this January.  

The TH-73A, based on the IFR variant of the commercial AW119Kx, the Thrasher emphasizes Leonardo’s use of dual-use designs, when feasible. Indeed, Gian Piero Cutillo, Leonardo Helicopters Managing Director, underlined the growing success of the OEM’s AW119 in the global market for military, homeland security and training missions following the success of this US Navy program: Israeli Air Force, Italian Carabinieri, and others, “while we’re actively campaigning the AW119T training variant, for example in Japan.” 

Earlier this month, the Pentagon exercised its option for a fourth lot of Leonardo TH-73As for the Navy. The latest modification of a previously awarded contract covered 26 helicopters that will be produced at Leonardo’s Philadelphia plant and delivered by December 2024. The service requirement remains at 130 TH-73As.  

TH-73A Training Ecosystem 

The TH-73A contract award covers the aircraft’s entire life cycle, including training. 

Randy Gawenda, Business Development Manager at Frasca International (a FlightSafety International company), noted his Urbana-based company is close to completing the first batch of materiel deliveries for the TH-73A. “The part-task trainers (PTTs) are unique in that they incorporate a mixed-reality component to them as well,” he explained, and added the first tranche of materiel under this contract included seven PTTs and 12 desktop trainers, the latter of which are basically avionics familiarization devices for the Thrasher. 

Frasca is also working to complete and deliver the second batch of products for the government customer, to include additional PTTs, desktop trainers and an instructor operator station. With the culmination of training in the TH-73A, Gawenda observed, “This will form a full training ecosystem for them.”