AgustaWestland, a Finmeccanica company, is pleased to announce that the first of ten Italian Air Force’s HH-139A medium twin engine helicopters has entered operational service. A ceremony held today at Cervia Air Base marked this achievement.
These helicopters will supplement ageing HH-212 and HH-3F helicopters in the role of search and rescue operations across the nation. The remaining HH-139As will be delivered to the Air Force by the end of this year and are the first examples of the AW139M dedicated military variant to be delivered.
Bruno Spagnolini, Chief Executive Officer, AgustaWestland, said at the ceremony “It gives us great pleasure to celebrate the operational readiness of this new aircraft, twenty years after the last helicopter was delivered to the Italian Air Force. This significant event is the first major step in support of the service’s modernization 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 whilst providing a quantum leap forward in operational capabilities and cost effectiveness compared to the present fleet of HH-3Fs and HH-212s.”
The HH-139A has been selected as an interim solution for the Italian Air Force’s SAR fleet replacement and modernization programme. The all new AW149, now under development, has been designed to meet a potential Italian Air Force requirement for a new medium class SAR helicopter with certification expected in 2013.
The Italian Air Force joins a number of other military customers who are already operating the AW139 including the Irish Air Corps, the United Arab Emirates Air Force and the Qatar Armed Forces.
The Italian Air Force’s HH-139A features an all-new heavy duty landing gear providing higher ground clearance and improved crashworthiness, secure communications suite including IFF and an integrated defensive aids suite. The aircraft is also equipped with the following role equipment – rescue hoist, search light, wire cutters, nose mounted FLIR, cargo hook, loudspeaker system and emergency floatation gear.
The only new generation helicopter in its weight class, the AW139 sets new standards of performance and has the largest cabin in its category. The AW139 has a maximum cruise speed of 165 knots (306 km/h) and a maximum range in excess of 570 nm (1060 km) with auxiliary fuel tanks. The aircraft has outstanding one engine inoperative capabilities, even in hot and high operating conditions. The advanced integrated cockpit minimises pilot workload allowing the crew to concentrate on mission objectives.
Almost 170 customers from over 50 countries have ordered nearly 620 helicopters to perform a wide range of roles including government missions, EMS/SAR, offshore transport, VIP/corporate transport, law enforcement and utility.