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Italian army reveals AW129 upgrade plan

Italy's army aviation command plans to upgrade its AgustaWestland AW129C attack helicopters to a new G19 configuration, having recently obtained approval from the nation's Parliament.

A key element of the project will be to install a new observation, targeting and weapon system comprising Rafael's Toplite sight unit and Spike ER air-to-surface missile. AgustaWestland will manage the upgrade, with Selex Galileo providing its mission-system interface unit and software.

Before the end of the year, a development-and-integration contract will be awarded for 32 systems, plus options for another 16. The deal is expected to be worth around €200 million ($275 million), and the work is due to be completed in 2014.

The upgrade will give the army's Mangustas enhanced target detection, identification and tracking performance by day or night, and an extended-range strike capability.

 
© Italian army

The army has an aviation battalion with 10 AW129Cs in Afghanistan, with the aircraft providing protection for Italian and coalition ground forces. They also support Italy's deployed transport helicopters, which include five Boeing CH-47Cs and six Agusta/Bell AB205s.

Meanwhile, the army will receive eight more NH Industries NH90 tactical transport helicopters between the end of this year and the middle of 2011 in the enhanced IOC+ standard. Featuring updated mission software and Oto Melara 7.62mm Gatling guns and capable of higher-altitude operations and rear ramp use, the aircraft follow will 12 already received in the IOC and IOC+ versions.

Next year, the army will also receive its first AAI RQ-7B Shadow unmanned air systems, under a $64 million deal signed earlier this year. A total of 16 Shadow air vehicles will be delivered by 2014.

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