Nov 24, 2014
Italy deploys latest Mangusta attack helo variant to Afghanistan
Task Force 'Fenice', the Italian Army Aviation component of Train Advise Assist Command West (TAAC-W) in Afghanistan, started testing the new version of the helicopter in early November. Once testing is complete, the new version will replace the earlier A129 CBT Mangusta, which has flown more than 10,500 hours in Afghanistan and was previously deployed in Iraq.
The AW129D is fitted with Rafael's Toplite III turret and Spike ER (Extended Range) missiles, and retains the Oto Melara TM-197B turret armed with a 20 mm gun. The new version has been tested in numerous firings in Sardinia, where missiles have been fired in all conditions, while Mangusta pilots also carried out target laser designation to guide bombs dropped from air force fighters. The Toplite III turret allows a much longer target detection, recognition, and identification range compared to the old HeliTOW, designed in the mid-70s.
Currently Task Force 'Fenice', based on the 5th Army Aviation Regiment, operates an improvised explosive device disposal (IEDD) 'Purple Team' (currently formed of one A129 CBT and one NH90 utility helicopter with a heli-sniper/JTAC and an eight-man IEDD team on board), and a reconnaissance and combat 'Red Team' (formed of two A129s).