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A129 Mangusta
Agusta A129 Mangusta at Air 04, Payerne, Switzerland
Role Attack helicopter
National origin Italy
Manufacturer Agusta
First flight 11 September 1983[1][2]
Status Active service
Primary user Italian Army
Produced 1980s-present
Number built 60
Unit cost
US$22 million (International version)[citation needed]
Variants TAI/AgustaWestland T-129

The Agusta A129 Mangusta (English: Mongoose) is an attack helicopter originally designed and produced by Agusta in Italy. It was the first attack helicopter to be designed and produced wholly in Western Europe. The TAI/AgustaWestland T-129 ATAK is a derivative version of the A129, and its development is the responsibility of Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), with AgustaWestland as the primary partner.

Development[edit | edit source]

Origins[edit | edit source]

The Italian Army began to form a need for a light observation and anti-tank helicopter in 1972; at the same time, West Germany had a similar need. The nations' requirements led to a joint project between the Italian company Agusta and West Germany company MBB; however, the joint effort ended after preliminary work. Agusta had initially studied an A109-based design, but decided upon proceeding with a more ambitious helicopter.[1] The company began design work on the A129 in 1978.[2] The first of five A129 prototypes took the type's maiden flight on 11 September 1983, and the fifth prototype first flew in March 1986. The Italian Army ordered a total of 60 A129s.[1]

Export market[edit | edit source]

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, called the Joint European Helicopter Tonal. ("Tonal" was derived from the name of an Aztec deity.) The Tonal was to have more powerful engines, a new rotor system, retractable landing gear, improved sensors and more powerful armament. However, the project collapsed in 1990 when Britain and the Netherlands decided to obtain the AH-64 Apache instead. Spain has since acquired the Eurocopter Tiger. An export version, the A129 International (A129I), is a lower-cost helicopter with added firepower and upgraded avionics. In September 2007, the A129I was redesignated the AW129.

In the Australian Army's AIR 87 project to acquire Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters, the Agusta A129, the AH-64 Apache, and the Eurocopter Tiger were short-listed from the six original tenders. In December 2001 it was announced that the contract was awarded to the Eurocopter Tiger.[3]

Design[edit | edit source]

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.[4] 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 considerably design similarities to the Agusta A109 utility helicopter; the entire rear half of the A129 was directly derived from the A109 and incorporated to an entirely new forward section.[4]

The A129 can be used in the anti-armour, armed reconnaissance, ground attack, escort, fire support and anti-aircraft roles. In the anti-armour role, the helicopter can carry armaments such as up to eight Hellfire missiles.[4] The A129 can also be equipped with 81 mm or 70 mm (2.75 in) unguided rockets and has a M197 three-barrel 20 mm cannon in a turret mounted under its nose.[4]

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.[4] The A129 is equipped with infrared night vision systems, enabling night time operations. Power is provided by a pair of Rolls-Royce Gem 2-1004D turboshaft engines, which incorporates protective measures such as to reduce the helicopter's infrared heat signature.[4]

Operational history[edit | edit source]

Three A129s in Iraq

The Italian Army received 60 A129s beginning in 1990,[1] and has been the only operator. In January 2002, AgustaWestland was awarded a contract to upgrade the first 45 A129A version to the multi-role A129 CBT standard. The first A129CBTs were delivered in October 2002. By 2007, the Italian Army had 45 A129A and 15 A129CBT helicopters.

In Italian service, the Mangusta has successfully deployed with UN missions to the Republic of Macedonia, Somalia and Angola. In Somalia, during the battle called of "Checkpoint Pasta" (because it was near an abandoned pasta factory), an A129 launched a single TOW missile which hit a vehicle carrying Somali insurgents, killing several. It equips the 5th AVES Regiment "Rigel" (based at Casarsa della Delizia, Friuli) and the 7º AVES Rgt. "Vega" (based in Rimini), part of the Friuli Air Assault Brigade. Three helicopters were deployed in Iraq to provide air support for the Italian forces in Nassiriya.

Several A129s have been stationed in Afghanistan, supporting Italian Army forces during combat in the region.[5]

Variants[edit | edit source]

Agusta A129 Mangusta

Production models[edit | edit source]

  • A129 Mangusta: Original production version, powered by two Rolls-Royce Gem 2 turboshaft engines.
  • A129 CBT(ComBaT): Upgraded version for the Italian army that incorporates the same advances as the A129 International version, but retains the original Gem turboshaft engines (although an uprated transmission system is fitted).
  • A129 International: Upgraded version with five-bladed rotor, M197 Gatling gun in a customized nose turret, support for Hellfire and Stinger missiles, advanced avionics equipment and two LHTEC T800 turboshafts.
  • T-129: (AgustaWestland AW129[6]) Turkish attack helicopter based on the A129CBT, featuring Turkish avionics and guided missiles.

Proposed models[edit | edit source]

  • A129 LBH: A multipurpose assault helicopter version with a new cabin structure completely with space for carrying eight troops in addition to the two crew. The abbreviation LBH stands for Light Battlefield Helicopter. This version was designated A139 by Agusta.[1]
  • A129 Multi-Role Proposed version, not built.
  • A129 Scout: Proposed reconnaissance version, not built.
  • A129 Shipboard: Proposed naval version, not built.
  • Tonal: Proposed derivative for Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and United Kingdom, with more powerful engines, a new rotor system, retractable landing gear, improved sensors, and more powerful armament. Cancelled in 1990.

Military designations[edit | edit source]

Italian military designation for the A129 from 2012.[7]
Italian military designation for the A129C from 2012.[7]
Italian military designation for the A129D from 2012.[7]

Operators[edit | edit source]



Specifications (A129)[edit | edit source]

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

Data from Augusta Westland A129 Technical Data[9]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2: pilot and weapon systems officer
  • Length: 12.28 m (40 ft 3 in)
  • Rotor diameter: 11.90 m (39 ft 1 in)
  • Height: 3.35 m (11 ft 0 in)
  • Disc area: 111.22 m² (1,197.25 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 2,530 kg (5,575 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 4,600 kg (10,140 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Rolls-Royce Gem 2-1004D (license built by Piaggio) turboshafts, 664 kW (890 shp) each
  • Rotor systems: 4 blades on main rotor


  • Maximum speed: 278 km/h (148 knots, 170 mph)
  • Cruise speed: 229 km/h (135 knots, 155 mph)
  • Range: 510 km (275 nm, 320 mi)
  • Ferry range: 1,000 km(540 nm, 620 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 4,725 m (15,500 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 10.2 m/s (2,025 ft/min)


  • Guns:20 mm (0.787 in) M197 three-barrel Gatling-type cannon (500 rounds) in a TM197B Light Turreted Gun System(only CBT version)
  • Rockets: 4 pods with
    • 38× 81 mm (3.19 in) unguided rockets or
    • 76× 70 mm (2.75 in) unguided rockets or
    • 12.7 mm machine gun-pod
  • Missiles:

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Donald, David, ed. "Agusta A 129 Mangusta". The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft. Barnes & Noble Books, 1997. ISBN 0-7607-0592-5.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Frawley, Gerald. "AgustaWestland A129 Mangusta". The International Directory of Military Aircraft, 2002/2003. Aerospace Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-875671-55-2.
  3. Australian Department of Defence, DMO AIR 87 - Armed Reconnaissance Helicopters Project
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Frédriksen 2001, p. 12.
  5. Kington, Tom. "Rotary Combat: U.K. Invests, Germany Cuts, France Debates." Defense News, 7 April 2013.
  6. ATAK Team Announce T129 Maiden Flight
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 http://www.dgaa.it/newsletter/newsletter60/AER-0-0-12.pdf
  8. "World Air Forces 2013". Flightglobal Insight. 2013. http://www.flightglobal.com/airspace/media/reports_pdf/emptys/101015/world-air-forces-2013.pdf. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  9. [1]. Augusta Westland.
  • 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.

External links[edit | edit source]

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