NH-90 and AW-129 helicopters to be deployed to Erbil “very soon.”
The Italian Army is going to deploy a Helicopter Force made of four NH-90 multirole choppers and four AW-129 Mangusta attack helicopters to Iraq, “very soon” the Italian MoD announced on Mar. 2, 2016.
The helicopters, along with 130 military, will be based at Erbil, in the northern part of the country, and their primary mission will be Personnel Recovery and CSAR (Combat SAR) missions. However, they are likely to be there to protect the Italian team working on repairing the Mosul Dam too: on the same day the Italian MoD announced the deployment of the helicopters, the Iraqi government signed an agreement with the Italian Trevi company (worth 273 million Euro) to repair the Mosul damn, located 130 km to the northwest of Erbil.
This is the not the first time the Italian Mangustas (that have extensively been used in Afghanistan) are deployed to Iraq: the Italian Army operated the A-129 (a previous variant of the current AW-129D) in Iraq from 2003 to 2006, supporting the Italian Contingent based at Nassiryah.
The AW-129D is the latest variant of the A129 attack helicopter equipped with infrared night vision systems, laser systems for range-finding and target designation purposes, OTSWS (Observation, Targeting and Spike Weapon System) for Spike-ER missile guidance in fire-and-forget and fire-and-observe modes.
The Helicopter Force joins the rest of the Italian Contingent in the region, that includes about 760 advisors, MQ-1C Predator A+ UAS (Unmanned Aerial System), four Tornado bombers (for the moment flying only reconnaissance missions) and one KC-767A tanker supporting the US-led coalition jets involved in the air war against ISIS.
Image credit: The Aviationist’s Giovanni Maduli. Top image shows an AW-129 during a simulated Personnel Recovery from behind the enemy lines.