Italian army obtained a total of 45 Agusta A-129 Mangusta lightweight attack helicopters
Conceived in response to an Italian Army requirement of the mid-1970s, the A-129 Mangusta (mongoose) was the first dedicated attack helicopter to be designed, built and deployed by a European country.
It was also the first in the world to be built around an advanced MIL-STD 1553B digital databus, which allowed a high degree of automation, considerably reducing the crew workload. The first A-129 prototype made its official maiden flight on 15 September 1983 at Cascina Costa (although it had already taken to the air twice before on 11 and 13 September).
The original Italian requirement had been for 100 Mangustas in distinct anti-tank and scout versions, but as the threat of all-out war in Europe receded, the final order was cut back to 60 A-129s.
In the event, a total of 45 A-129s were delivered to Aviazone Escercito (Italian army aviation) between 1990 and 1992, when production was stopped. Official Italian army designation of this helicopter is AH-129.
The Italian A-129 is significantly less capable than a contemporary US AH-64 Apache, AH-1W Super Cobra, or Russian Ka-50 or Mi-28 attack helicopters.
It looses to these helicopters in all key areas, including firepower, survivability, speed and range. In fact the Mangusta is one of the least capable gunships, that are currently in service.
A-129 Mangusta is an original production version.
A-129 International is an improved and modified version. Funding problems, and changing operational needs, forced the Italian army to re-evaluate its requirement for dedicated anti-tank helicopters. The need for a more multi-role helicopter was reinforced when Mangustas were deployed on UN peacekeeping duties to Somalia between 1992 and 1994.
The Mangusta’s primary TOW missile armament left it inflexible where combat against tanks was not a priority mission. Hence, Agusta has developed the Mangusta International, which features an undernose 20 mm cannon, uprated 1 362 shp (1 016 kW) AlliedSignal LHTEC CTS800-2 engines and a five-bladed main rotor system. This aircraft also retains the HeliTOW target acquisition system, making it a highly versatile combat helicopter.
The Italian Army began to receive Mangusta in International form in 2002 with Rolls-Royce engines. Furthermore in 2002 Italian helicopter manufacturers were awarded a contract to upgrade all operational Mangustas to the International standard. At the time the Mangusta International was actively marketed for export.
T-129 is a Turkish-built version of the A-129 with Turkish ωɛλρσɳs and avionics. In 2007 a contract was signed between AgustaWestland and Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) for development of new attack helicopter to meet a Turkish Army requirement.
The resulting T-129 is a derivative of the A-129, but uses Turkish high-tech avionics, ωɛλρσɳ systems, mission computer, self-protection suites and some other systems. This helicopter also has upgraded engines, transmission and rotor blades. Its deliveries to the Turkish Army began in 2013.