The Italian Air Force's first AgustaWestland AW 101 medium lift helicopter has successfully completed its maiden test flight at the helicopter maker's Yeovil facility in the UK.
Designated as HH-101A "CAESAR", the helicopter is the first of the 20 AW101s Italy has ordered together with options for an additional four aircraft intended for personnel recovery and special forces missions.
AgustaWestland chief executive officer Daniele Romiti said the flight test marks another major milestone in the company's contribution to the Italian Air Force's rotary wing fleet modernisation programme, which witnessed the launch, development and delivery of the HH-139 search-and-rescue helicopters in recent years.
"With the HH-101A "CAESAR" the Italian Air Force will introduce into service the most advanced and capable aircraft available for this demanding operational requirement, developed and tailored to meet specific customer requirements ensuring a quantum leap forward in capability," Romiti said.
Italian Air Force chief of staff Gen. Pasquale Preziosa said the HH-101A is the best solution for the Italian Air Force's future operational capability requirements due to its performances, versatility and reliability.
"It will also support SAR, MEDEVAC and Slow Mover Intercept operations which are extremely important to provide effective support to the Italian community," Preziosa said.
Armed with three M134 7.62mm pintle mounted Gatling-type machine guns, the HH-101A helicopters are designed to host a combination of up to five crew members plus 20 fully equipped troops or six crew members in addition to eight troops for special operations ensuring maximum flexibility.
Additional features include armoured cockpit seats, ballistic protection for machine gun operators and critical systems; an integrated electronic warfare system offering self-protection against radar, laser and infrared threats; and an air-to-air refuelling kit for extended range operations.
The first two helicopters are scheduled to be delivered to the Italian Air Force during the last quarter of 2014.
Image: Italian Air Force's first AW101 medium lift helicopter during its maiden flight in UK. Photo: © 2012 AgustaWestland - A Finmeccanica Company.