Italy will acquire 48 units that will replace the veteran A129 Mangusta

An exhibition of the AW249 Fenice, the new attack helicopter of the Italian Army

Italy has a very important military industry, with Leonardo as one of the most prominent defense companies in the country.

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Leonardo has an important helicopter division, Leonardo Helicopters, heir to the merger between two famous European companies specialized in the production of this type of aircraft: the Italian Agusta and the British Westland. In the late 1970s, Agusta began development of the A129 Mangusta attack helicopter, which made its first flight in 1983 and entered service in 1990.

The start of the withdrawal of the Mangusta is scheduled for 2025, and to replace it the Italian Army has chosen another national product: the Leonardo Helicopters AW249 Fenice (Phoenix), which made its first flight on August 12, 2022. So far two prototypes have been built and two other units are in the final assembly process. The Italian Army plans to acquire 48 AW249 to replace the 32 AW129 that it still has in active service.

The Fenice looks very similar to the Mangusta. Like this one, the Fenice will be armed with the M197 20 mm rotary cannon with three tubes, a very old weapon. The variant that will arm the Fenice is the TM197B. The new helicopter will also include weapons mounts on both sides of the fuselage, with the ability to launch AI-equipped Spike anti-tank missiles, 70mm rockets and infrared-guided air-to-air missiles.

The great novelty of the Fenice is that it will have a network connection for integrated multi-domain operations, which will improve its ability to work jointly with other manned aircraft and also with drones, which can be controlled from this helicopter. In its cockpit, the Fenice incorporates an integrated and fused tactical image from all information and mission management systems, to improve the available situational awareness, as highlighted by Leonardo Helicopters. Its cockpit stands out for its large 21.5-inch screens that will facilitate handling and reduce the workload of its crew.

The Fenice has been designed taking the experience of the Mangusta crews during these 34 years of service in the Italian Army. Leonardo highlights that the new helicopter will be more resistant to damage from enemy fire and will have fuel tanks and seats with greater capacity to withstand impacts. Likewise, the helicopter has been designed to reduce its radar signature, in addition to having anti-radar paint to make it less detectable.

The Fenice will be faster than the Mangusta (287 km/h compared to 278 km/h for its predecessor) and will have greater autonomy (796 km compared to 510 km/h for the Mangusta) . It will also be much heavier: 8,300 kg maximum takeoff weight compared to the 4,600 kg of the Mangusta. This Monday, the Rivista Italiana Difesa published a video of an interesting flight demonstration of the AW249 Fenice, in which we can see some images of the interior of the cockpit of this helicopter:


Images: Leonard Helicopters.

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