Italian Air Force’s first of ten HH-139A medium twin engine helicopters has entered into operational service for the 15th Wing at Cervia Air Base, northern Italy.
AgustaWestland chief executive officer Bruno Spagnolini said that the operational readiness of the new aircraft is the first major step in support of the service’s modernisation programme which will also see the HH-101 "CAESAR" replacing the HH-3F Pelicans in the Combat SAR role.
"The HH-139A will complement the HH-101s while providing a quantum leap forward in operational capabilities and cost effectiveness compared to the present fleet of HH-3Fs and HH-212s," Spagnolini added.
The AgustaWestland-built HH-139A helicopters will serve as an interim solution to replace the ageing HH-212 and HH-3F helicopters role of search and rescue (SAR) operations across the nation.
Features of the new Italian Air Force’s HH-139 include a new heavy duty landing gear that provides higher ground clearance and improved crashworthiness, secure communications suite including IFF and an integrated defensive aids suite.
Additional features include one engine inoperative capabilities even in hot and high operating conditions, as well as an advanced integrated cockpit to minimise pilot workload and allow the crew to accomplish mission objectives.
The aircraft, a variant of the AW139M, is equipped with rescue hoist, search light, wire cutters, nose mounted FLIR, cargo hook, loudspeaker system and emergency floatation gear.
Designed to meet the Italian Air Force’s requirement for a new medium class SAR helicopter, the helicopter SAR certification is expected to be received in 2013.
Other military customers that are already operating the AW139 include the Irish Air Corps, the UAE Air Force and the Qatar Armed Forces.
Image: HH-139A medium twin engine helicopter is designed to serve as Italian Air Force’s new medium class SAR helicopter. Photo: AgustaWestland.