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AgustaWestland to deliver new A129 CBT by end of year

Paul Lewis/MILAN

AgustaWestland is set to deliver the first new-build improved A129 CBT attack helicopter to the Italian army towards the end of the year, by which time it anticipates having a signed contract to upgrade the country's 45 Mangusta anti-tank machines to a comparable multirole configuration.

The first of 15 A129 CBT helicopters on order is nearing completion at the company's Vergiate factory and is in the process of having a chin-mounted 20mm cannon and 300-round magazine installed. The company has also received the first two Mangustas for upgrading to CBT standard ahead of a formal contract awardby the army.

Principal CBTdesign changes comprise a new composite five-blade main rotor and two-blade tail rotor, the addition of a strap-down GPS satellite navigation system, improved communications, a new self-protection and electronic warfare suite, and infrared suppressor. In addition to the three-barrel cannon, the CBT's weapons pylons will include the provision to carry up to four Raytheon Stinger air-to-air missiles.

The army has chosen to retain the Rolls-Royce Gem powerplant, but is uprating the transmission from 970kW (1,300shp) to 1,265kWto provide higher power margins at low altitude. The helicopter's maximum take-off weight will increase to around 4,600kg (10,170lb). The army is interested in the Lockheed Martin Hawkeye target sight system (TSS), but for budgetary reasons will retain the existing nose-mounted HeliTow optical sight and laser rangefinder.

Agusta is offering TSS as an option on the A129 International, which is a developed CBT for export. The system's third-generation thermal-imager provides sufficiently extended detection and target recognition range to arm the helicopter with the laser-guided Hellfire anti-tank missile. The company as an alternative is in the process of integrating the Taman H-MOSP sight and Rafael NT-D missile on the helicopter.

Other International changes will include re-engining with twin LHTEC T800-2 or -5 turboshafts, a further transmission upgrade, two colour multifunction displays and a Thales Avionics binocular helmet-mounted display (HMD). Italy's CBT for now will retain the single monochrome head-down display and monocle HMD.

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