Everything to know about Italy's homegrown attack helicopter
When you think about the best attack helicopters out there, the Boeing AH-64 Apache, the Bell AH-1 Cobra, the Westland Lynx, the Mil Mi-24 Hind, and the Kamov Ka-50/52 Hokum all come to mind. But one of the world's best attack helicopters comes from a surprising place: Italy.
Yep, that's right, the land of pasta, romance, and Roman legions is also the birthplace of one of the world's best tank-killing helicopters. That helicopter is the Agusta A129 Mangusta (Italian for 'mongoose'). The project was ambitious, but would never reach its full potential thanks to the end of the Cold War.
An Italian Army Agusta A129A Mangusta. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Aldo Bidini)
This was a very capable attack helicopter. It had a top speed of 174 miles per hour, a maximum range of 317 miles, and a crew of two. The firepower it could bring was impressive: A M197 20mm Gatling gun (that gave it a bite just like the AH-1 Cobra's), eight BGM-71 TOW or AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missiles, FIM-92 Stinger or Mistral anti-aircraft missiles, not to mention rocket pods and gun pods with .50-caliber machine guns. Yeah, this chopper would definitely ruin some armored column's day.
Italy planned to build 100 of these helicopters. It first flew in 1983, but the research and development process took a while, and West Germany eventually bailed on the program, leaving Italy to for ahead alone. The first production examples didn't arrive until 1990. The planned purchase of 100 was then slashed to 60. Another version of this chopper capable of hauling eight troops in addition to the firepower, the A139, never got off the ground.
Still, the A129 has served Italy well. In fact, the Italians are converting two dozen of their existing choppers into armed reconnaissance helicopters to join two dozen newly build helicopters. Plus, Turkey has acquired a production license to build a local version of this lethal helicopter.
Learn more about Italy's deadly helicopter in the video below.