Warplanes: Combat Proven

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January 1, 2015: In November 2014 Italy sent one of the new models (A129D) of their A129 helicopter gunship to Afghanistan for testing and, since that was successful the A129Ds replaced the three older A129s that were already there to support a bomb removal team and some special operations troops still operating in the north throughout 2014.

The latest version of the Italian A129 is roughly comparable to the upgraded versions of the U.S. AH-1 (especially the AH-1W SuperCobra). The 4.6 ton A-129 was the first helicopter gunship designed and built in Western Europe and was introduced in the 1980s. While it has been upgraded frequently for a long time the only customer was Italy, which bought 60 of them. Turkey recently became a customer for the T129, an A129 variant largely built in Turkey. In this case the A129 manufacturer is exporting more technology than manufactured items.

The A129D has advanced features first found on the AH-64. These include (Toplite); a longer (by about 50 percent) range targeting radar and optical system with zoom that allows the A129D weapons operator to spot targets for the A129Ds new Spike ER (range 8 kilometers) missiles or laser guided missiles or bombs from aircraft above (via the laser designator on the A129D). Toplite also enabled the A129D to fly in any weather, day or night.

 

 


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