The Italian air force has fielded its first of 10 AW139 search and rescue (SAR) helicopters, with the AgustaWestland type to be referred to as the HH-139A in national service.

Placed into use with the 15th Wing at Cervia air base on 8 March, the new type is a replacement for the air force's SAR-roled Agusta-Bell AB212 and Agusta/Sikorsky HH-3F helicopters.

 HH-139A - Italian air force

© Troupe Azurra/Italian air force

"The remaining HH-139As will be delivered to the air force by the end of this year," AgustaWestland says. Four will be stationed at Cervia, with Gioia del Colle and Trapani-Birgi air bases also to receive three each.

Initially planned as an interim solution pending the availability of AgustaWestland's developmental AW149, the HH-139A deal was converted in late 2010 to an outright purchase worth €220 million ($288 million). This also includes the provision of personnel training and a five-year package of logistics and support services based on a projected 300 flying hours to be logged by each helicopter per year.

 HH-139A - AgustaWestland

© AgustaWestland

AgustaWestland also has a separate contract to deliver several AW101s adapted to meet the Italian air force's combat SAR requirements.

Source: Flight International