Meet Italy’s Flying Mongoose—the Agusta A129 Mangusta

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December 31, 2020 Topic: Security Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: ItalyNATOHelicopterAgustaAgusta A129

Meet Italy’s Flying Mongoose—the Agusta A129 Mangusta

The Agusta A129 Mangusta was a very useful helicopter and the first made entirely in Western Europe.

Introduced in 1983, the Agusta A129 Mangusta (Mongoose) has been the Italian Army’s primary attack helicopter and the first attack helicopter to be designed and produced wholly in Western Europe. It was used in several United Nations missions in the 1990s including the Yugoslavian Civil Wars and later to Somalia and Angola. The platform proved to be ideal as a peacekeeping aircraft and especially well-suited to operations in hot climates.

Development of the A129 began in the early 1970s, and the Italian Army sought to incorporate a light observation/anti-tank helicopter to address the threat from the Warsaw Pact. Design work on the platform began in 1978 and the first five A129 prototypes were used in a maiden flight on September 11, 1983. To date sixty of the aircraft have entered service with the Italian Army, which has been the sole operator of the A129.

The rotary wing aircraft is equipped with anti-tank and area-suppression weapons systems, which allow it to operate in its primary role as an attack helicopter to be used against armored targets; but can also perform in ground attack, fire support, escort and armed reconnaissance/scout roles. The all-weather craft can operate during the day and at night.

It is powered by two Rolls-Royce Gem 2-1004D turboshaft engines with semicircular air intakes that are mounted alongside the top of the fuselage, and also features that are designed to enhance the mission capability including simple engine controls with automatic engine management, fast start-up, high power for fast transit and low specific fuel consumption. The aircraft also features a low signature and fast engine response for ability, and the engines also incorporate protective measures to reduce the helicopter’s infrared heat signature.

It was the first helicopter to make use of a fully computerized, integrated management system that helps reduce crew workload, and much of the helicopter’s functionality was designed to be automated. This includes parts of the flight and armament systems, which are monitored and directly controlled by onboard computers. This chopper is also equipped with infrared night vision systems.

The Agusta A129 Mangusta features a tandem cockpit that seats a crew of two—pilot and gunner. The fuselage is highly angular and armored to provide ballistic protection, while the composite rotor blades can also withstand hits from 23mm cannon fire.

The helicopter has four blades on the main rotor, and its turboshaft powerplant enables it to reach a maximum speed of 170 mph (278 km/h) and maintain a cruise speed of 155 mph (229 km/h). It has a range of 320 miles (510 km) and a service ceiling of 15,500 feet or 4,725 meters, with a rate of climb of 2,025 feet per minute (10.2 m/s).

This “Mongoose” has some teeth—it is armed with a 12.7mm machine gun pods, and is equipped with four rocket pods that can hold a number of platforms that include: thirty-eight 81mm unguided rockets, seventy-six 70mm unguided rockets, eight AGM-114 Hellfire or BGM-71 TOW or Spike-ER anti-tank missiles, or eight AIM-92 Stinger or Mistral anti-aircraft missiles.

The upgraded CBT version of the A129 helicopter is also armed with a 20mm M197 three-barrel Gatling-type cannon mounted in a TM197B Light Turreted Gun System. It also features an updated transmission system.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

Image: Reuters.