The Italian army formally inducted its NH Industries NH90 tactical transport helicopter into service on 6 March, conducting a five-aircraft ceremony at its Viterbo training centre.

The service will eventually acquire 60 of the aircraft, which will become the only utility type operated by its Friuli Airmobile Brigade.

"The first Airmobile unit will be ready for operational deployment by the end of 2009," says Army Aviation commander Maj Gen Enzo Stefanini.

© Italian Army Aviation

The army has received five NH90s since December 2007 in an initial operating capability standard suitable for supporting training activities.

Lt Col Massimo Bonesi, head of the Army Aviation Command's NH90 programme team, praises the high reliability and availability of the NH90, which is being supported under a three-year logistics deal with AgustaWestland.

"The five helicopters have so far logged around 150 flying hours, while one has accumulated 55 flying hours in only one month", he says.

Seven more aircraft will be delivered from the third quarter of this year in an IOC-plus configuration, with a full operational capability standard to follow by early 2009.

Avio has, meanwhile, delivered its first of 232 T700-T6E1 turboshaft engines on order to equip NH90s for the Italian Army and Navy. The company - which holds a 60% stake in the T6E1 venture with General Electric - will complete deliveries in 2017.

Additional reporting by Pino Modola