Agusta A129 Mangusta

A129 Mangusta
The Agusta A129 Mangusta over Lugo, Emilia-Romagna
Role Attack helicopter
National origin Italy
Manufacturer Agusta
First flight 11 September 1983[1][2]
Status In service
Primary user Italian Army
Produced 1983-present
Number built 60
Unit cost
US$22 million (International version)
Variants TAI/AgustaWestland T129

The Agusta A129 Mangusta (English: Mongoose) is an attack helicopter originally designed and produced by Italian company Agusta. It has the distinction of being the first attack helicopter to be designed and produced wholly in Europe.[3] It has continued to be developed by AgustaWestland, the successor company to Agusta. The A129 has undergone several combat deployments since entering service with the Italian Army in the 1990s.

A derivative of the A129, the TAI/AgustaWestland T129 ATAK, is being developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) in cooperation with AgustaWestland. TAI will produce the T129 for the Turkish Army and potentially export customers.



In 1972, the Italian Army began forming a requirement for a light observation and anti-tank helicopter; around the same time, the West German military had identified a similar need. The two nations' requirements led to a joint project being initiated between the Italian company Agusta and West German company MBB; however, the joint effort was soon dissolved following preliminary work. Agusta had initially studied the development of a combat-orientated derivative of their existing A109 helicopter, however they decided to proceed with the development of a more ambitious helicopter design.[1] In 1978, Agusta formally began the design process on what would become the A129.[2]

On 11 September 1983, the first of five A129 prototypes made the type's maiden flight; the fifth prototype would first fly in March 1986. Around the same time, the Italian Army placed an order for a total of 60 A129s.[1] According to defence publication Jane's Information Group, by 1985, the A129 was considered to be a comparable attack helicopter to the American-built McDonnell Douglas AH-64 Apache, and showed potential on the export market.[4]

Export market

During the 1980s, Agusta sought to partner with Westland Helicopters to develop a common light attack helicopter, other prospective manufacturing participants in the joint initiative included Fokker and Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA.[5] In 1986, the governments of Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom signed a memorandum of understanding to investigate an improved version of the A129, alternatively called the Joint European Helicopter Tonal or Light Attack Helicopter (LAH). By 1988, feasibility studies for four different options had been conducted for the LAH, these would have between 80 per cent and 20 per cent growth over the initial A129; both single-engine and twin-engine configurations were examined using various new powerplants, as well as a new rotor system, retractable landing gear, improved sensors and more powerful armament.[6] However, the LHA project collapsed in 1990 following Britain and the Netherlands independently deciding to withdrawal from the program and eventually procure the AH-64 Apache instead.[5]

An A129 in flight, with personnel riding on the landing gear

Agusta proceeded to develop the A129 International, or A129I, an upgraded version of the A129 for export customers. The A129I featured a five-bladed main rotor (early production aircraft employed a four-bladed main rotor), a pair of LHTEC T800 engines (replacing the Rolls-Royce Gem engines) and an upgraded transmission; the A129I also had new weapons and electronic warfare systems. In 1998, the Italian Army had decided to upgrade a portion of their A129 fleet with many of the A129I's systems, the first of the remanufactured helicopters was delivered in 2002.[7][8] In September 2007, the A129I was formally redesignated as the AW129.[9]

During the Australian Army's AIR 87 project to procure a new Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter fleet, the Agusta A129 was one of the contenders; it was one of the three attack helicopters, alongside the AH-64 Apache and the Eurocopter Tiger, to be short-listed out of the six tenders submitted. In December 2001, Australia announced its selection of the Eurocopter Tiger as the winning bid.[10]

Turkey had sought a new attack helicopter since the 1990s to replace their diminished Bell AH-1 Cobra and Bell AH-1 SuperCobra fleets. Following a highly protracted selection process, in September 2007, an order was issued for 51 TAI/AgustaWestland T129 ATAK helicopters, a variant of the A129 International.[8] As a part of the deal with AgustaWestland, Turkish defense firm TAI acquired the rights for future manufacturing of the T129; TAI intends to produce the T129 for export customers. Various components and avionics systems are intended to be replaced with indigenously-produced systems as they are developed.[8]


The gunner's position in the cockpit of an A129. Note the weapons scope and targeting controls present

The A129 Mangusta is the first European attack helicopter; as such it has several original aspects to its design, such as being the first helicopter to make use of a fully computerised integrated management system to reduce crew workload.[11] It was decided that much of the helicopter's functionality was to be automated; as such, parts of the flight and armament systems are monitored and directly controlled by onboard computers. The A129 shares considerable design similarities to Agusta's earlier A109 utility helicopter; the rear section of the A129 was derived from the A109 and incorporated to an entirely new forward section.[11] The A129's fuselage is highly angular and armoured for ballistic protection; the composite rotor blades are also able to withstand hits from 23mm cannon fire. The two man crew, comprising a pilot and gunner, sit in a conventional tandem cockpit.[11]

The A129 can be used in the anti-armour, armed reconnaissance, ground attack, escort, fire support and anti-aircraft roles. For the anti-ground mission the helicopter can employ various armaments, such as up to eight Hellfire missiles.[11] In the air-to-air role, the FIM-92 Stinger missile was certified for use in 2003.[12][13] The A129 can also be equipped with 81 mm or 70 mm (2.75 in) unguided rockets; a M197 three-barrel 20 mm cannon is also installed onto a nose-mounted Oto Melara TM-197B turret.[11] By 2014, the Spike-ER, a fourth-generation anti-tank missile, had been added to the A129's arsenal.[14][15]

Power is provided by a pair of Rolls-Royce Gem 2-1004D turboshaft engines, the engines have been designed to incorporate infrared heat signature reduction measures.[11] One of the key protective measures incorporated onto the A129 include the electronic warfare and SIAP (single integrated air picture) self-protection suite.[14] Elements of the mission interface systems and the onboard software integrated onto later aircraft were produced by Selex Galileo.[16]

The A129 is equipped with infrared night vision systems and is capable of operating at day or night in all-weather conditions.[3] Laser systems are fitted onto newer aircraft for range-finding and target designation purposes, the A129 can laser-designate targets for other friendly aircraft to attack.[14] On the AW129D, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems's Toplite III sight is used as the primary targeting system; it is able to act as a FLIR and has both manual and automatic target tracking modes, Toplite also provides a greater detection and identification range than the 1970s era HeliTOW sensor it replaced.[15][17] In 1998, Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) formally partnered with Agusta to offer various avionics and weapons upgrades to potential A129 operators; various IAI technologies have since been proposed and implemented on Italian A129s.[18][19]

Operational history

Three A129s in Iraq

The Italian Army would receive a total of 60 A129 helicopters, deliveries of the type began in 1990.[1][4] In 1999, AgustaWestland received a contract to produce the last batch of 15 A129s to the new combat CBT configuration; in late 2001, the Italian Army opted to have all of their A129s retrofitted to the improved A129 CBT standard.[20] As of 2011, AgustaWestland plans to modify a total of 24 A129s to the new ARH-129D aerial reconnaissance standard and manufacture a further 24 new-built ARH-129Ds for the Italian Army.[14]

In Italian service, the Mangusta has successfully deployed on several United Nations missions in nations such as the Republic of Macedonia, Somalia and Angola. The A-129 proved to be suitable in the peacekeeping role and well-suited to operations in hot climates; the type was reported to have been highly reliable and extremely flexible during the deployment to Somalia.[3]

Three A129 helicopters were deployed in Iraq to provide air support for the Italian forces in Nassiriya. Several A129s have also been stationed in Afghanistan to support in-theatre operations by Italian and allied forces.[21] In November 2014, the latest variant of the A129, the AW-129D, was deployed to Afghanistan for the first time.[15]

In January 2015, the Italian Army opted for an enhancement package their existing A129 attack helicopters. The upgrades, which are to enter service prior to 2020, focus on increasing the A129's endurance, speed, situational awareness, and information-handling capabilities; other goals included a reduction in pilot workload and integrating the aircraft with future tactical UAVs. A revealed alternative that was considered and rejected was the replacement of the type with an attack-orientated variant of the newer AgustaWestland AW149 helicopter, upgrading the existing A129s was considered to be less risky and time-consuming.[22]

In March 2016, the Italian government announced that it was deploying four A129 attack helicopters and four NHIndustries NH90 transport helicopters along with 130 personnel to the Kurdistan region of Iraq to perform combat search and rescue mission as part of a multinational effort to help combat Islamic State militants within the region and specifically to protect the Mosul Dam.[23][24]


Agusta A129 Mangusta

Production models

Proposed models

Military designations

Italian military designation for the A129 from 2012.[26]
Italian military designation for the A129C from 2012.[26]
Italian military designation for the A129D from 2012.[26]




Specifications (A129)

External video
Documentary discussing the A129
A129 performing acrobatic manoeuvers
Display flight of an A129

Data from AgustaWestland A129 Technical Data,[28] Twenty First Century Military Helicopters,[3] Jane's Aviation Review[4]

General characteristics



See also

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Donald, David, ed. "Agusta A 129 Mangusta". The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. Barnes & Noble Books, 1997. ISBN 0-7607-0592-5.
  2. 1 2 Frawley, Gerald. "AgustaWestland A129 Mangusta". The International Directory of Military Aircraft, 2002/2003. Aerospace Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-875671-55-2.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Crawford 2003, p. 18
  4. 1 2 3 Taylor 1985, p. 86.
  5. 1 2 Brzoska 1992, p. 26.
  6. "LAH cost options defined." Flight International, 24 September 1988. p. 2.
  7. "Italian army receives upgraded Mangusta attack helicopters." Flight International, 11 November 2002.
  8. 1 2 3 "Turkey Finally Lands Its Attack Helicopters." Defense Industry Daily, 19 February 2014.
  9. "Rising Fortunes." Flight International, 4 May 1996. p. 33.
  10. Australian Department of Defence, DMO AIR 87 - Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters Project
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Frédriksen 2001, p. 12.
  12. "Stinger Air-To-Air Missile Validated On The A129 Combat Helicopter." Archived January 6, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. AgustaWestland, 20 October 2003.
  13. "A129 gets Stinger as helicopter anti-air missile moves on." Flight International, 27 March 2000.
  14. 1 2 3 4 Douglas Nelms. "AgustaWestland ARH-129D Mangusta." Rotor & Wing Magazine, 1 June 2011.
  15. 1 2 3 Valpolini, Paolo. "Italy deploys latest Mangusta attack helo variant to Afghanistan." IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, 23 November 2014.
  16. Peruzzi, Luca. "Italian army reveals AW129 upgrade plan." Flight International, 12 November 2010.
  17. Egozi, Arie. "AW129 on target with TopLite integration". Flight International, 16 January 2015.
  18. Egozi, Ari. "Israel and Italy team in Turkey." Flight International, 3 March 1998.
  19. "Israeli systems on Italian helicopters?" iHLS, 28 January 2015.
  20. "Agusta Delivers First Combat A129 To Italian Army." Archived January 6, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. AgustaWestland, 25 October 2002.
  21. Kington, Tom. "Rotary Combat: U.K. Invests, Germany Cuts, France Debates." Defense News, 7 April 2013.
  22. Stevenson, Beth. "Italian army describes Mangusta upgrade wish list." Flight International, 22 January 2015.
  23. Valpolini, Paolo. "Italy to deploy CSAR helicopter force to Iraq." IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, 2 March 2016.
  24. Dolamari, Mewan. "Italy to send helicopters to Kurdistan Region." Kurdistan 24, 3 March 2016.
  25. ATAK Team Announce T129 Maiden Flight
  26. 1 2 3 "Utilizzo Della Nomenclatura 'Mission Design Series' (MDS) Neele Pubblicazioni Tecniche (PPTT) Di Competenza Della Daa" (PDF). Ministero Della Defesa. June 2011.
  27. "World Air Forces 2016". FlightGlobal. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  28. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-09-06.. AgustaWestland.


  • Brzoska, Michael. Restructuring of Arms Production in Western Europe. Oxford University Press, 1992. ISBN 0-19829-147-7.
  • Crawford, Stephen. Twenty First Century Military Helicopters: Today's Fighting Gunships. Zenith Imprint, 2003. ISBN 0-76031-504-3.
  • Frédriksen, John C. International Warbirds: An Illustrated Guide to World Military Aircraft, 1914-2000. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2001. ISBN 1-57607-364-5.
  • Taylor, Michael. Jane's Aviation Review. Jane's, 1985. ISBN 0-7106-0333-9

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