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.
The Turkish Land Forces (Türk Kara Kuvvetleri) have officially started flying their new T-129 (ATAK) attack helicopters as of May 2014, although the first nine now being operated are not fully developed yet.
The early development version (so-called EDH or T-129A) lacks the ability to fire anti-tank missiles, but has limited operational capability with its on-board 20 mm gatling gun and rocket pods for 70 mm (2.75 in) projectiles. Partner manufacturing companies Turkish Aerospace Industries and AgustaWestland are slowly getting towards the all-capable T-129B.
The new Turkish attack helicopter is a derivative of AgustaWestland’s own A129 Mangusta, but it has a more powerful engine and will be able to carry up to 12 of the Turkish variant of the Hellfire II anti-tank missile, called the UMTAS, as well as Stinger missiles. It is also said it might operate a Turkish developed Longbow-kind-of-radar.
The TKK is set to have a total of 60 T-129Bs, with the current T-129A being upgraded to B-standard somewhere in the near future.