The Italian army is seeking an enhancement package for its AgustaWestland AH-129D Mangusta attack helicopter, which it hopes will be upgraded within five to six years.
Brig Gen Antonio Bettelli, commander of army aviation for the Italian army, told the International Military Helicopter conference in London that two options had been considered: to "exploit the current Mangusta" or acquire a new attack helicopter derived from the AW149.
“The risks related to the programme were considered too high and [with] the time requirements [we] dismissed the second option,” Bettelli says. “So we are now considering an upgrade of the 'Delta' option.”
The army is looking for enhancements in speed, endurance, altitude, situational awareness, human-machine interface and information exchange/command and control. It is also looking to decrease the handling and workload burdens.
“With this we will not reach 100% [capability] but will have something not far away and something that is accessible,” Bettelli says.
Bettelli admits that the upgrade timeframe “depends on money”, but says he hopes it will be in service by around 2020 because “we absolutely need this”.
The Italian army expects a new tactical UAV capability to be delivered by June 2015 when the Textron Systems Shadow 200 joins its inventory to complement the Mangusta helicopter.
“We are hoping to operate the first systems in June 2015 and integrate it with the Mangusta helicopter,” Bettelli says. “We have to develop a new concept to integrate the unmanned vehicles. It will mainly be operated by army aviation and we’re considering establishing a special army aviation unit for this.
“It will provide army aviation with new, appealing capabilities and this must be exploited as much as possible,” he adds.