The Italian Army deployed an upgraded version of its Mangusta attack helicopter to Afghanistan for operational testing, Italian sources confirm.
The AW129D has been tested on the ranges in Sardinia, where it apparently also flew airborne forward air control and laser targeting mission for Italian Air Force jets, but the Esercito Italiano now wants a real test. The D-version has a 20 mm gun, plus a Rafael Toplite III EOS turret and can launch Spike Extended Range missiles. The new Toplite is a big improvement to the former HeliTow. It enables Mangusta crews to detect and identify targets much further away then before, although how far exactly has actually not been disclosed.
The AW129D arrived with NATO’s Train Advise Assist Command West (TAAC-W) – with Herat Airfield as regional support field – in November, where older AW129CBTs already flew more than 10,000 flight hours. The Mangustas fly combat missions in pairs and ground support missions mostly together with an NH90 with special forces troops on board.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger, including source information provided by the Esercito Italiano