Italy's air force is continuing operational evaluations of the AgustaWestland AW149 super-medium helicopter, as it weighs up an order for the 8.3t rotorcraft.

The airframer says the service is using the helicopter to "define as best as possible their requirements", with the aircraft potentially to be used in a utility troop transport or search and rescue configuration.

Performed using a flight-test prototype, the test regime has accumulated over the last three months some 60 flight hours with the service's 17th Wing.

The helicopter is presently configured in a troop transportation layout featuring three banks of four seats each, plus an additional two seats just aft of the cockpit. These could be used to accommodate two window gunners, says AgustaWestland, and the next stage of the evaluation process may see it install dummy machine guns in those positions.

Other future modifications will include the addition of a cargo hook, rescue hoist and some changes to the avionics. Military certification for the AW149 was achieved in July.


Dominic Perry/Flightglobal

AgustaWestland says its aim is to provide an aircraft that can be used to shape the air force’s exact requirements prior to any order.

"We can put on the table what we think is suitable but not yet certificated," it says.

At present Rome has no orders in place for the AW149, but the airframer remains confident that a deal will eventually materialise.

"The intention is there but we have to fight with tight budgets. It's not a matter of if – it's a matter of when, because that capability with the larger platform is needed."

The AW149 has also been offered to Poland for its tri-service requirement for 70 multi-role rotorcraft. Submissions were due last month, and Warsaw is anticipated to make a decision by year-end.

AgustaWestland says the most demanding of the three variants would be that destined for the Polish navy, which requires both a folding tail and folding main rotor. Initial design studies have been conducted to prove the feasibility of the work, it says, but no further engineering work has been carried out.