AgustaWestland is negotiating a major upgrade programme for Italian army A129 Mangusta anti-tank helicopters that draws heavily on the A129 International configuration.

With no firm orders for new A129s, a go-ahead for the Italian army upgrade programme would help sustain the company’s workflow on the aircraft, AgustaWestland says.

The Finmeccanica subsidiary could begin installing Raytheon Stinger air-to-air missiles on Italy’s A129 fleet by next year should army officials decide to launch the upgrade programme before December. A US export licence to transfer sensitive Stinger design details to AgustaWestland engineers is expected to be signed soon.

The Italian army has no plans to replace its Rolls-Royce Gem 1004 engine with the A129 International’s more-powerful T800 turboshaft made by LHTEC, a Honeywell/R-R joint venture.

AgustaWestland is already working on upgrading 45 of the Italian army’s A129 helicopters during the next two years, to add new avionics, a second-generation infrared sensor, improved self-protection suite and satellite navigation.

The upgrades are expected to be completed in 2008.

The company has delivered 60 of the aircraft to the army, of which 15 were the upgraded A129CBTs.

The CBT configuration includes a new transmission that boosts torque by 30%, strengthened landing gear and fuselage to raise maximum take-off weight by 15%, and a five-bladed rotor.

The new design also adopts the Breda/TM 197B chin-turreted gun, plus new software and avionics.


Source: Flight International