Denel Aviation has begun final assembly of the first Agusta A109 Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) for the South African Air Force.

The South African company is licence manufacturing 25 of the 30 helicopters ordered in September 1999 as part of a major arms re-equipment programme that includes fighters, advanced trainers and warships.

The $240 million order covered the supply of the first five aircraft by Agusta, with the rest to be produced by Denel and other South African defence and aerospace companies.

Denel is also participating in subsystems integration, customisation engineering and flight tests of the SouthAfrican helicopters. It is also licensed to produce and support the A109LUH, the A109 Power and the A119 Koala.

The A109LUH is a 3,000kg (6,600lb)-class helicopter derived from the A109 Power and intended for military roles such as medical evacuation, surveillance and search and rescue. It is powered by two digitally controlled 530kW (710shp) Turbomeca Arrius 2K2 turboshafts.

An Agusta-built A109LUH demonstrator is due to start flight tests of SouthAfrican-specific modifications this week from Wonderboom Airport, near Pretoria.

Source: Flight International