Bell/Agusta Aerospace (BAAC) will unveil the military version of it AB139 medium twin helicopter to an airshow audience for the first time this week. The US-Italian alliance is also likely to confirm more firm orders for the commercial AB139 during the Show.

BAAC, which is also teamed on the BA609 civil tiltrotor, hopes to corner a share of the market for fire support, troop transport and command and control aircraft and will throw the wraps off a military mock-up at Farnborough.

Bell/Agusta says the military variant will be based on the commercial airframe, but with a number of modifications and options that customers can specify to tailor the aircraft to particular missions. A commercial prototype is expected to fly by year-end.

"The military AB139 will be armour-plated, with armoured seats and interior mounted machine guns," says executive marketing director Antonio Giovannini. "The aircraft will also be capable of firing conventional rockets and both Stinger and Mistral missiles. We're very excited at the prospects and we have spoken to people from the Far East, Middle East, Europe and South America who support this programme."

BAAC claims that the AB139 will redefine the concept of the utility helicopter, a market which Sikorsky has traditionally dominated with the UH-60 Black Hawk. The aircraft will feature a diamond shaped fuselage and low radar signature, together with infra-red suppressors, designed to increase its survivability. The aircraft also features a five-blade main rotor and a fully digital cockpit, with Honeywell Primus Epic avionics and will meet European JAR and US FAR part 29 requirements.

BAAC also sees potential for the aircraft in government applications such as law enforcement and coastguard duties.

Meanwhile, final assembly of the first two fuselages is under way on the Italian production line at Vergiate.

Source: Flight Daily News