ITALIAN HELICOPTER builder Agusta is seeking to revive its fortunes by offering an enhanced version of the A.129 Mangusta in the increasingly active attack-helicopter market. The prototype of the new A.129 International was due to be flown for the first time as Flight International went to press.

The Mangusta, already in service with the Italian army, has been upgraded to offer improved performance; weapons choice and payload; and avionics. The new helicopter is not among the favourites in the current UK and Dutch competitions, but Agusta expects that the improved International will fare better in new contests due to start in the coming years in Australia, India, Sweden, the Middle East and other places.

The original Rolls-Royce Gem 1004 turbo-shafts have been replaced with LHTEC T800s, which provide 30-40% more power over the operational range of the engines. The gearbox capacity has been increased, from 970kW (1,300shp), to 1,340kW.

A new five-bladed rotor has been fitted to replace the Mangusta's four-bladed system. The changes have resulted in gross-weight increase from 4.1t for the Mangusta to 5t for the International.

The new helicopter's top speed, has risen to more than 150kt (280km/h), compared to 135kt for the Mangusta, while the rate of climb has risen to more than 2,360ft/min (12m/s), against 2,000ft/min for the Mangusta. Avionics upgrades include a new forward-looking infrared system, as well as a charge-coupled-device television.

The International is equipped with a three-barreled M-197 20mm cannon mounted in a Martin Marietta/Giat compact turret (the Mangusta has no built-in gun-armament) and can carry TOW and Hellfire anti-tank guided weapons, 70mm- and 81mm-unguided rockets and Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.

Meanwhile, the Italian army has taken delivery of 30 Mangustas, with an additional 30 still to be delivered. The service has signed a contract to upgrade 15 Mangustas with the International variant's gun turret and Stinger capability. Further upgrades, using the other improvements, are planned.

Source: Flight International