Pictures: Italy’s AgustaWestland A129 attack helicopter prepared for crew rescue challenge

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Flight International has obtained exclusive images of an Italian army demonstration of the AgustaWestland A129 attack helicopter’s potential use as a personnel rescue vehicle, as the service prepares to deploy five of the aircraft to Afghanistan’s Herat province later this month.

Taken during a previous combat deployment of the Italian Army Aviation Command’s Airmobile Brigade to Iraq in April 2005, the pictures show a recovery technique in which two downed aircrew or ground personnel could be rescued by sitting on the Mangusta’s main landing gear.

Italy’s latest A129C-standard aircraft are being sent to Afghanistan to provide an increased offensive capability as Italian forces face a heightened threat of attack from Taliban forces. The force expansion effort will also include the deployment of two Italian air force General Atomics Predator unmanned air vehicles and an additional Lockheed Martin C-130J transport.

The British Army earlier this year conducted a high-profile personnel rescue attempt in Afghanistan using four Royal Marine commandos carried on the wings of two of its Boeing/Westland Apache AH1 attack helicopters (below).