The Agusta A129 Mangusta is an attack helicopter originally designed and produced by Italian company Agusta.
It is the first attack helicopter to be designed and produced wholly in Europe.
It has continued to be developed by AgustaWestland, the successor company to Agusta.
It has been exclusively operated by the Italian Army, which introduced the type to service during 1990.
The A129 has undergone several combat deployments, seeing use in Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
It has proven well suited to operating in hot climates, as well as quite flexible in the field.
The original 60 rotorcraft have been upgraded multiple times since entering service with the Italian Army; improvements have included compatibility with additional munitions, new targeting systems, improved avionics, better data-handling, and a more powerful transmission.
Various improvements and export models have been proposed, including dedicated naval and reconnaissance variants.
The TAI/AgustaWestland T129 ATAK derivative has been developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries in cooperation with AgustaWestland for the Turkish Army as well as other services and export customers.
Since 2017, work has been underway on a larger successor to the A129 for the Italian Army, the Leonardo Helicopters AW249.
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 computerized integrated management system to reduce crew workload.
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.
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.
The A129 is able to be operated in various capacities, including to perform anti-armour, armed reconnaissance, ground attack, escort, fire support and anti-aircraft missions.
For the anti-ground mission the helicopter may employ a combination of various armaments, including up to eight Hellfire missiles; By 2014, the Spike-ER, a fourth-generation anti-tank missile, had been added to the A129’s arsenal.
In the air-to-air role, the Mistral missile could be equipped; furthermore, the FIM-92 Stinger missile was certified for use in 2003.
The A129 can also be equipped with 81 mm or 70 mm (2.75 in) unguided rockets housed in pods as well as 12.7mm machine gun pods; later models also feature a M197 three-barrel 20 mm cannon that is installed onto a nose-mounted Oto Melara TM-197B turret.
Power is provided by a pair of Rolls-Royce Gem 2-1004D turboshaft engines.
Features of this engine includes automatic engine management and simplified controls for ease of operation, along with a relatively brief start-up interval and a comparatively low specific fuel consumption.
Newer variants benefit from improvements such as an improved transmission.
One key feature present on the engines is the incorporation of infrared suppressors, which act to reduce the aircraft’s heat signature and thereby improve survivability.
One of the key protective measures incorporated onto the A129 include the electronic warfare and SIAP (Single Integrated Air Picture) self-protection suite.
Elements of the mission interface systems and the onboard software integrated onto later aircraft were produced by Selex Galileo.
The A129 is equipped with infrared night vision systems and is capable of operating at day or night in all-weather conditions.
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.
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.
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.
Original production version, powered by two Rolls-Royce Gem 2 turboshaft engines.
Maximum take-off weight of 4,100 kg; 45 built for the Italian Army.
Upgraded version developed for export with more powerful LHTEC T800 turboshafts; in its final configuration, it had a five-bladed main rotor, an improved transmission, a M197 gatling cannon in a customized OTO Melara TM-197B nose turret, improved avionics and support for Hellfire anti-tank missiles and Stinger air-to-air missiles.
Maximum take-off weight of 5,000 kg.
A129 CBT / A129C
Upgraded “Combat” (CBT) version for the Italian Army incorporating most of the features of the A129 International but retaining the original Gem turboshaft engines (although an uprated transmission system is fitted); its main anti-tank weapon remains the TOW missile; it can be equipped with auxiliary fuel tanks for extended range and Stinger missiles for escort duties.
Maximum take-off weight of 4,600 kg; 15 built for the Italian Army, plus all 45 standard A129s later upgraded to A129C standard.
Updated version of the A129C with improved avionics, comprising multifunctional displays, and a new Rafael TopLite III optronic system in place of the original Saab HeliTow unit; the TOW missiles are replaced by the much more modern and capable Spike-ER missiles.
Maximum take-off weight of 4,600 kg; 32 A129C have been upgraded to the A129D standard.
Turkish attack helicopter based on the A129 International, featuring Turkish-made avionics and weaponry.
Italian military designation for the A129 from 2012.
Italian military designation for the A129C from 2012.
Italian military designation for the A129D from 2012.
The A129 in Italian Army service has been designated as EA-1 (Elicottero d’Attacco – Attack Helicopter 1), later changed to EC-1 (Elicottero da Combattimento – Combat Helicopter 1) and ultimately to EES-1 (Elicottero da Esplorazione e Scorta – Scout and Escort Helicopter 1).
12.28 m (40 ft 3 in)
3.35 m (11 ft 0 in)
2,530 kg (5,578 lb)
Max take-off weight
4,600 kg (10,141 lb)
2 × Rolls-Royce Gem 2-1004D (license built by Piaggio) turboshaft engines,
664 kW (890 hp) each
Main rotor diameter
11.9 m (39 ft 1 in)
Main rotor area
111.2 m2 (1,197 sq ft) 5-bladed main rotor
278 km/h (173 mph, 150 kn)
229 km/h (142 mph, 124 kn)
510 km (320 mi, 280 nmi)
1,000 km (620 mi, 540 nmi)
4,725 m (15,502 ft)
Rate of climb
10.2 m/s (2,010 ft/min)
1× 20 mm (0.787 in) M197 three-barrel Gatling-type cannon (500 rounds) in a TM197B Light Turreted Gun System (only CBT version)