Italian Air Force Takes Delivery of First HH-139B Combat SAR Helicopter
On November 30, the first HH139B helicopter landed in Cervia, intended to complete and strengthen the helicopter fleet of the Italian Air Force 15th Wing and its subordinate SAR Centers and Groups. The HH139B helicopter was handed over on November 27 at the Leonardo plant in Vergiate (VA), following the successful conclusion of the testing and acceptance procedures conducted by the personnel of the Aeronautical Armaments and Airworthiness Department (DAAA), together with the men of the employee of the Territorial Technical Office of Milan (UTT) and the support of the Experimental Flight Department of the Air Force.
The delivery of the helicopters will be completed in 2021, with the delivery of 17 “B” version helicopters to the Flying Groups of Cervia and the Search and Rescue centers located on the national territory (80th C/SAR Center at Decimomannu; 82nd C/SAR Center at Trapani; 84th C / SAR Center of Gioia del Colle and 85th C/SAR Center of Pratica di Mare. In addition, the maximum take-off weight has been increased, from 6800kg to 7000kg, which allows a greater load capacity and finally it has been updated with the latest-generation avionics and on-board sensors (such as the AIS system – Automatic Identification System – which allows better interaction with vessels, and the OPLS – Obstacle Proximity LIDAR System.
The 15th Wing has the task of recovering crews in difficulty in peacetime (SAR – Search and rescue) and in times of crisis and in operations outside national borders (C / SAR – Combat SAR), to support special forces operations as well as to contribute in the event of serious disasters to activities of public utility such as the search for missing persons at sea or in the mountains, the emergency medical transport of patients in danger of life and the rescue of seriously injured persons, transport in bio-containment and, recently, also support for forest fire fighting activities.
The AW139 is a 15-seat medium-sized twin-engined helicopter developed and built by AgustaWestland (now part of Leonardo). It is marketed at several different roles, including VIP/corporate transport, offshore transport, fire fighting, law enforcement, search and rescue, emergency medical service, disaster relief, and maritime patrol. The AW139 was originally designed and developed jointly by Agusta and Bell Helicopters and marketed as the Agusta-Bell AB139, being redesignated AW139 when Bell withdrew from the project. Since entering service in 2003, the AW139 has become one of AgustaWestland’s most influential products; it has been subsequently developed into the enlarged medium-lift military-orientated AW149.