Agusta A129 Mangusta

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A129 Mangusta
AgustaA129 03.jpg
Agusta A129 Mangusta at Air 04, Payerne, Switzerland
Role Attack helicopter
National origin Italy
Manufacturer Agusta
AgustaWestland
First flight 11 September 1983[1][2]
Status In service
Primary user Italian Army
Produced 1980s-present
Number built 60
Unit cost
US$22 million (International version)[citation needed]
Variants TAI/AgustaWestland T-129

The Agusta A129 Mangusta (English: Mongoose) is an attack helicopter originally designed and produced by Agusta. It has the distinction of being the first attack helicopter to be designed and produced wholly in Europe.[3] It has continued to be developed by AgustaWestland, the successor company to Agusta. The A129 has undergone several combat deployments since entering service with the Italian Army in the 1990s.

A derivative of the A129, the TAI/AgustaWestland T-129 ATAK, is being developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), who shall produce the T-129 for the Turkish Army and potentially other export customers, AgustaWestland is serving as the primary partner on the T-129.

Development[edit]

Origins[edit]

In 1972, the Italian Army began forming a requirement for a light observation and anti-tank helicopter; around the same time, the West German military had identified a similar need. The two nations' requirements led to a joint project being initiated between the Italian company Agusta and West German company MBB; however, the joint effort was soon dissolved following preliminary work. Agusta had initially studied the development of a combat-orientated derivative of their existing A109 helicopter, however they decided to proceed with the development of a more ambitious helicopter design.[1] In 1978, Agusta formally began the design process on what would become the A129.[2]

On 11 September 1983, the first of five A129 prototypes made the type's maiden flight; the fifth prototype would first fly in March 1986. The Italian Army placed an order for a total of 60 A129s.[1]

Export market[edit]

In 1986, the governments of Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom signed a memorandum of understanding to investigate an improved version of the A129, called the Joint European Helicopter Tonal.[citation needed] The Tonal was to have more powerful engines, a new rotor system, retractable landing gear, improved sensors and more powerful armament. However, the project collapsed in 1990 following Britain and the Netherlands independently deciding to procure the AH-64 Apache and their withdrawal from the program. Spain would later acquire the Eurocopter Tiger to meet their requirement.[citation needed]

An A129 in flight, with he personnel riding on the landing gear

Agusta proceeded to develop the A129 International, or A129I, an upgraded version of the A129 for export customers. The A129I featured a five-bladed main rotor (early production aircraft employed a four-bladed main rotor), a pair of LHTEC T800 engines (replacing the Rolls-Royce Gem engines) and an upgraded transmission; the A129I also had new weapons and electronic warfare systems. In 1998, the Italian Army had decided to upgrade a portion of their A129 fleet with many of the A129I's systems, the first of the remanufactured helicopters was delivered in 2002.[4][5] In September 2007, the A129I was formally redesignated as the AW129.[6]

During the Australian Army's AIR 87 project to procure a new Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter fleet, the Agusta A129 was one of the contenders; it was one of the three attack helicopters, alongside the AH-64 Apache and the Eurocopter Tiger, to be short-listed out of the six tenders submitted. In December 2001, Australia announced its selection of the Eurocopter Tiger as the winning bid.[7]

Turkey had sought a new attack helicopter since the 1990s to replace their diminished Bell AH-1 Cobra and Bell AH-1 SuperCobra fleets. Following a highly protracted selection process, in September 2007, an order was issued for 51 TAI/AgustaWestland T-129 ATAK helicopters, a variant of the A129 International.[5] As a part of the deal with AgustaWestland, Turkish defense firm TAI acquired the rights for future manufacturing of the T129; TAI intends to produce the T129 for export customers. Various components and avionics systems are intended to be replaced with indigenously-produced systems as they are developed.[5]

Design[edit]

The gunner's cockpit of an A129 with weapons scope and targeting controls

The A129 Mangusta is the first European attack helicopter; as such it has several original aspects to its design, such as being the first helicopter to make use of a fully computerised integrated management system to reduce crew workload.[8] It was decided that much of the helicopter's functionality was to be automated; as such, parts of the flight and armament systems are monitored and directly controlled by onboard computers. The A129 shares considerable design similarities to Agusta's earlier A109 utility helicopter; the rear section of the A129 was derived from the A109 and incorporated to an entirely new forward section.[8]

The A129 can be used in the anti-armour, armed reconnaissance, ground attack, escort, fire support and anti-aircraft roles. For the anti-ground mission the helicopter can employ various armaments, such as up to eight Hellfire missiles.[8] In the air-to-air role, the FIM-92 Stinger missile was certified for use in 2003.[9][10] The A129 can also be equipped with 81 mm or 70 mm (2.75 in) unguided rockets and has a M197 three-barrel 20 mm cannon in a turret mounted under its nose.[8] Later variants are fitted with laser systems for range-finding and target designation purposes, the A129 can also laser-designate targets for other friendly aircraft to attack.[11] In 2013, the A129 was undergoing weapon validation testing with the Spike missile, a fourth-generation anti-tank munition.[11]

The A129's fuselage is highly angular and armoured for ballistic protection; the composite rotor blades are also able to withstand hits from 23mm cannon fire. The two man crew, comprising a pilot and gunner, sit in a conventional tandem cockpit.[8] The A129 is equipped with infrared night vision systems and is capable of operating at day or night in all-weather conditions.[3] Power is provided by a pair of Rolls-Royce Gem 2-1004D turboshaft engines, the engines have been designed to incorporate infrared heat signature reduction measures.[8] Other protective measures include the electronic warfare and SIAP (single integrated air picture) self-protection suite.[11] In 1998, Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) partnered with Agusta to offer various avionics and weapons upgrades to potential A129 operators.[12]

Operational history[edit]

Three A129s in Iraq

The Italian Army would receive a total of 60 A129s, deliveries of the type began in 1990.[1] In 1999, AgustaWestland received a contract to produce the last batch of 15 A129s to the new combat CBT configuration; in late 2001, the Italian Army opted to have all of their A129s retrofitted to the improved A129 CBT standard.[13] As of 2011, AgustaWestland plans to modify a total of 24 A129s to the new ARH-129D aerial reconnaissance standard and manufacture a further 24 new-built ARH-129Ds for the Italian Army.[11]

In Italian service, the Mangusta has successfully deployed on several United Nations missions in nations such as the Republic of Macedonia, Somalia and Angola. The A-129 proved to be suitable in the peacekeeping role and well-suited to operations in hot climates; the type was reported to have been highly reliable and extremely flexible during the deployment to Somalia.[3]

Three A-129 helicopters were deployed in Iraq to provide air support for the Italian forces in Nassiriya. Several A129s have also been stationed in Afghanistan to support in-theatre operations by Italian and allied forces.[14]

Variants[edit]

Agusta A129 Mangusta

Production models[edit]

  • A129 Mangusta: Original production version, powered by two Rolls-Royce Gem 2 turboshaft engines.
  • A129 CBT(ComBaT): Upgraded version for the Italian army that incorporates the same advances as the A129 International version, but retains the original Gem turboshaft engines (although an uprated transmission system is fitted).
  • A129 International: Upgraded version with five-bladed rotor, M197 Gatling gun in a customized nose turret, support for Hellfire and Stinger missiles, advanced avionics equipment and two LHTEC T800 turboshafts.
  • T-129: (AgustaWestland AW129[15]) Turkish attack helicopter based on the A129CBT, featuring Turkish avionics and guided missiles.

Proposed models[edit]

  • A129 LBH: A multipurpose assault helicopter version with a new cabin structure completely with space for carrying eight troops in addition to the two crew. The abbreviation LBH stands for Light Battlefield Helicopter. This version was designated A139 by Agusta.[1]
  • A129 Multi-Role Proposed version, not built.
  • A129 Scout: Proposed reconnaissance version, not built.
  • A129 Shipboard: Proposed naval version, not built.
  • Tonal: Proposed derivative for Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and United Kingdom, with more powerful engines, a new rotor system, retractable landing gear, improved sensors, and more powerful armament. Cancelled in 1990.

Military designations[edit]

AH-129A
Italian military designation for the A129 from 2012.[16]
AH-129C
Italian military designation for the A129C from 2012.[16]
AH-129D
Italian military designation for the A129D from 2012.[16]

Operators[edit]

 Italy

 Turkey

Specifications (A129)[edit]

A129 orthographical image.svg
External video
Documentary discussing the A129
A129 performing acrobatic manoeuvers
Display flight of an A129

Data from AgustaWestland A129 Technical Data,[18] Twenty First Century Military Helicopters[3]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2: pilot and weapon systems officer
  • Length: 12.28 m (40 ft 3 in)
  • Rotor diameter: 11.90 m (39 ft 1 in)
  • Height: 3.35 m (11 ft 0 in)
  • Disc area: 111.22 m² (1,197.25 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 2,530 kg (5,575 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 4,600 kg (10,140 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Rolls-Royce Gem 2-1004D (license built by Piaggio) turboshafts, 664 kW (890 shp) each
  • Rotor systems: 4 blades on main rotor

Performance

Armament

  • Guns:20 mm (0.787 in) M197 three-barrel Gatling-type cannon (500 rounds) in a TM197B Light Turreted Gun System (only CBT version)
  • Rockets: 4 pods with
    • 38× 81 mm (3.19 in) unguided rockets or
    • 76× 70 mm (2.75 in) unguided rockets or
    • 12.7 mm (.50 in) machine gun pod
  • Missiles:

See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists

References[edit]

Citations
  1. ^ a b c d e Donald, David, ed. "Agusta A 129 Mangusta". The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. Barnes & Noble Books, 1997. ISBN 0-7607-0592-5.
  2. ^ a b Frawley, Gerald. "AgustaWestland A129 Mangusta". The International Directory of Military Aircraft, 2002/2003. Aerospace Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-875671-55-2.
  3. ^ a b c d Crawford 2003, p. 18
  4. ^ "Italian army receives upgraded Mangusta attack helicopters." Flight International, 11 November 2002.
  5. ^ a b c "Turkey Finally Lands Its Attack Helicopters." Defense Industry Daily, 19 February 2014.
  6. ^ "Rising Fortunes." Flight International, 4 May 1996. p. 33.
  7. ^ Australian Department of Defence, DMO AIR 87 - Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters Project
  8. ^ a b c d e f Frédriksen 2001, p. 12.
  9. ^ "Stinger Air-To-Air Missile Validated On The A129 Combat Helicopter." AgustaWestland, 20 October 2003.
  10. ^ "A129 gets Stinger as helicopter anti-air missile moves on." Flight International, 27 March 2000.
  11. ^ a b c d Douglas Nelms. "AgustaWestland ARH-129D Mangusta." Rotor & Wing Magazine, 1 June 2011.
  12. ^ Egozi, Ari. "Israel and Italy team in Turkey." Flight International, 3 March 1998.
  13. ^ "Agusta Delivers First Combat A129 To Italian Army." AgustaWestland, 25 October 2002.
  14. ^ Kington, Tom. "Rotary Combat: U.K. Invests, Germany Cuts, France Debates." Defense News, 7 April 2013.
  15. ^ ATAK Team Announce T129 Maiden Flight
  16. ^ a b c "Utilizzo Della Nomenclatura 'Mission Design Series' (MDS) Neele Pubblicazioni Tecniche (PPTT) Di Competenza Della Daa". Ministero Della Defesa. June 2011. 
  17. ^ "World Air Forces 2013". Flightglobal Insight. 2013. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  18. ^ [1]. AgustaWestland.
Bibliography
  • Crawford, Stephen. Twenty First Century Military Helicopters: Today's Fighting Gunships. Zenith Imprint, 2003. ISBN 0-76031-504-3.
  • Frédriksen, John C. International Warbirds: An Illustrated Guide to World Military Aircraft, 1914-2000. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2001. ISBN 1-57607-364-5.

External links[edit]