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First AW101 helo for Italian Air Force makes maiden flight

The AW101 (HH-101A

YEOVIL, UK (BNS): The first AW101 combat search & rescue (CSAR) helicopter for the Italian Air Force has undergone maiden test flight at AgustaWestland's Yeovil facility in the UK on March 19.

The rotorcraft, designated the HH-101A "CAESAR", was flight tested in the presence of Italian Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Pasquale Preziosa and other senior military and civilian officials.

AgustaWestland is set to deliver two of the advanced medium-lift helicopters to the Italian Air Force in the last quarter of 2014.

According to reports, Italy has ordered a total of 12 HH-101As for its Air Force.

The choppers, configured for Personnel Recovery and Special Forces missions, will replace the aging Sikorsky HH-3F Pelicans in Combat SAR role.

"The HH-101A will respond to the Italian Air Force's needs for Personnel Recovery and Special Forces Operations. It will also support SAR, MEDEVAC and Slow Mover Intercept operations which are extremely important to provide effective support to the Italian community. Thanks to its performances, versatility and reliability, the HH-101A is the best solution for the Italian Air Force's future operational capability requirements," Air Force Chief Gen. Preziosa said.

The HH-101A will host a combination of up to five crew members plus twenty fully equipped troops or six crew members plus 8 troops for special operations ensuring maximum flexibility.

The helicopters will also feature three M134 7.62 mm pintle mounted Gatling-type machine guns installed on right and left sides and on the rear ramp, armoured cockpit seats, ballistic protection for machine gun operators as well as for critical systems and an Integrated Electronic Warfare System providing self-protection against radar, laser and infrared threats.

The HH-101A will also have an air-to-air refuelling kit for extended range operations.

According to AgustaWestland, over 220 AW101 helicopters have been ordered so far by customers worldwide to perform a large number of roles including Personnel Recovery, Special Forces Operations, SAR, Combat SAR, utility, troop transport, Anti-Surface Warfare, Anti-Submarine Warfare, Airborne Early Warning, mine sweeping and VVIP transport.

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