The Italian Air Force’s first AgustaWestland HH-101A made its maiden flight at AgustaWestland’s facility in Yeovil, U.K., on March 19. The HH-101A, designated Caesar, had an audience of dignitaries on hand to watch. The flight also served as the opening act in a day that concluded with a signing designed to prepare the Italian Air Force to operate the HH-101A.
“This event marks another major milestone in providing our contribution to the Italian Air Force’s rotary wing fleet modernization program, which in recent years has the launch, development and delivery of the HH-139 for search and rescue.”
The HH-101A lifted off in the presence of Italian Air Force chief of staff Gen. Pasquale Preziosa, Italy’s ambassador to the U.K. Domenico Terracciano, the Italian Ministry of Defense’s Arms Directorate head Lt. Gen. Domenico Esposito, RAF 2 Group commander Air Vice Marshal Sean Reynolds, and others representing various military services. “We are delighted to show the Italian Air Force the first aircraft of its future new fleet of personnel recovery-dedicated helicopters,” said AgustaWestland CEO Daniele Romiti in a company statement. “This event marks another major milestone in providing our contribution to the Italian Air Force’s rotary wing fleet modernization program, which in recent years has [seen] the launch, development and delivery of the HH-139 for search and rescue.”
The first and second HH-101A Caesars are scheduled to be delivered later in 2014. The first two helicopters will be configured for personnel recovery and special operations forces missions. The HH-101A is designed to fulfill a variety of missions. “The HH-101A will respond to the Italian Air Force’s needs for personnel recovery and special forces operations,” said Preziosa. “It will also support SAR [search and rescue], MEDEVAC [medical evacuation] and slow mover intercept operations, which are extremely important to provide effective support to the Italian community.”
“The HH-101A will respond to the Italian Air Force’s needs for personnel recovery and special forces operations.”
Able to operate with a combination of either five crew members and 20 fully equipped soldiers or six crew members and 8 fully loaded special operations soldiers, the HH-101A is a flexible platform. “Thanks to its performances, versatility and reliability, the HH-101A is the best solution for the Italian Air Force’s future operational capability requirements,” said Preziosa. The HH-101A can be armed with up to three pintle-mounted M134 miniguns – on the right and left sides of the helicopter, and on the rear ramp. Armored cockpit seats, ballistic protection for the minigun operators, and an integrated electronic warfare system provide protection to both crew and helicopter. “With the HH-101A Caesar, the Italian Air Force will introduce into service the most advanced and capable aircraft available for this demanding operational requirement, developed and tailored to meet specific customer requirements ensuring a quantum leap forward in capability,” said Romiti. When outfitted with an air-to-air refueling kit, the HH-101A is capable of extended range operations.
The occasion of the maiden flight saw the Italian Air Force and AgustaWestland sign a letter of intent regarding the future structure of joint training. The agreement calls for the co-development of new capabilities to meet future training requirements. Existing synergies between the AgustaWestland Training Organization, based near Rome, Italy, and the Italian Air Force’s 72nd Wing will be leveraged to increase the level of training received by the Italian Air Force. Both the Italian Air Force and AgustaWestland envision conversion training for crews of the VH-139A and HH-139A helicopters, so that they may operate the HH-101A.