Eurocopter Dolphin / Panther Naval light utility helicopter

Military derivatives of the twin-engined civil SA 365 and SA 366 Dauphin serve in various forms with 21 air arms. Sales were limited to small numbers principally for utility and VIP transport duties. The biggest customer was the US Coast Guard (USCG) which bought 99 HH-65A Dolphins for the short-range recovery SAR role.
   Dedicated military versions are derived from the civil AS 365N Dauphin 2. The AS 365F is intended primarily for the anti-ship role, and features search radar, a towed MAD bird, anti-ship missile armament and avionics for mid-course targeting update of ship-launched anti-ship missiles.
   A SAR variant has an advanced electronic flight instrumentation system flightdeck, a rescue winch and an automatic navigation system. Eurocopter also offers a more advanced ASW derivative equipped with dunking sonar, upgraded MAD, and torpedo armament.

   Military variants have since been redesignated in the Eurocopter France AS 565 Panther series. Saudi Arabia received four search and rescue/surveillance AS 565MBs for ASW while Israel bought AS 565SAs (local name Atalef/Bat). France has 18 unarmed AS 565MA variants for search and rescue, sea surveillance and aircraft-carrier plane guard (Pedro) duties.

   The Panther is also marketed in three basic land-warfare forms; armed AS 565AB; anti-tank AS 565CA and unarmed utility AS 565UB. Brazil acquired 36 AS 565AAs (local designation HM-1) primarily for general transport. In the PRC, the AS 365N has been built under licence as the Harbin Z-9 Haitun for the PLA Army Aviation Corps and PLA Naval  Aviation. Harbin also markets an anti-tank variant.

Eurocopter Puma / Cougar Medium transport helicopter

The SA 330 Puma was developed by Sud-Aviation to meet a French army specification for an all-weather medium transport helicopter. In 1967 it was also selected for the Royal air force and produced as a joint programme with Westland. Nearly 700 Pumas were built for at least 25 air forces and the type remains in widespread use.
   The Royal air force Puma HC.Mk 1 entered service in 1971 and currently is replaced by the EH.101 Merlin. The basic SA 330Ba still serves in significant numbers with French army aviation. The ALAT's 130 surviving SA 330Bs have been progressively updated. The Armee de l'Air operates 29 Pumas, six of which in the combat search and rescue role.
   The Aerospatiale AS 332 Super Puma was devised as a successor to the Puma. It first flew on 13 September 1978 and entered service as the military AS 332B and stretched AS 332M. Pumas and Super Pumas have been built under licence by IPTN in Indonesia. South Africa's Pumas were replaced from 1995 by the TP-1 Oryx, a Puma developed by Atlas that incorporates elements of the Super Puma upgrade, including Makila engines.
   In January 1990 the military development of the AS 332 were renamed Cougar (later Cougar Mk I), renumbered AS 532 and accorded new variant suffixes, according to role and airframe (short- or long-fuselage). First flown in 1987 the Cougar Mk II introduced uprated 2 104-shp (1 569-kW) Makila 1A2 powerplants. The Cougar serves with the ALAT as a battlefield surveillance and control helicopter with the HORIZON battlefield surveillance radar; it also supplements the basic SA 330B in the assault transport role. Dedicated combat search and rescue variants serve with the air forces of France and Saudi Arabia.

   AS 332 Super Pumas and AS 532 Cougars are operated by 30 air arms.

Aerospatiale SA 321 Super Frelon Medium transport helicopter

To meet a French armed services requirement for a medium transport helicopter, Sud-Aviation flew the prototype SE.3200 Frelon (hornet) on 10 June 1959. Powered by three Turmo IIIB turboshafts, the SE.3200 had large external fuel tanks that left the interior clear for a maximum of 28 troops, and a swing-tail fuselage to simplify cargo loading. However, development was terminated in favour of a larger and more capable helicopter designed in conjunction with Sikorsky and Fiat. What was to become Western Europe's largest production helicopter emerged with a rotor system of Sikorsky design, and with a watertight hull suitable for amphibious operation. Two military prototypes of the Super Frelon were built, the SA 3210-01 troop transport, and the SA 3210-02 maritime version for the Aeronavale on 28 May 1963.
   Four pre-production aircraft were built under the new designation SA 321 Super Frelon. These were followed in October 1965 by production SA 321G anti-submarine warfare helicopters for the Aeronavale. Apart from ship-based ASW missions, the SA 321G also carried out sanitisation patrols in support of Redoutable class ballistic missile submarines. Some were modified with nose-mounted targeting radar for Exocet anti-ship missiles. Five SA 321GA freighters, originally used in support of the Pacific nuclear test centre, were transferred to assault support duties. In 2003, the surviving Aeronavale Super Frelons are assigned to transport duties including commando transport, VertRep and SAR.
   Six radar-equipped SA 321GM helicopters were delivered to Libya in 1980-81. The SA 321G was also modified for air force and army service. Designated SA 321H, a total of 16 was delivered from 1977 to the Iraqi air force with radar and Exocets. These aircraft were used in the Iran-Iraq conflict and the 1991 Gulf War, in which at least one example was destroyed.
   The SA 321JA was a higher weight version of the commercial SA 321J, of which the People's Republic of China navy received 16 aircraft fitted with targeting radar. Non-amphibious military export versions included 12 SA 321K transports for Israel, 16 similar SA 321L transports for South Africa and eight SA 321M SAR/transports for Libya.

   When French production ended in 1983 a total of 99 Super Frelons had been built, but production continued in China under license-agreement as the Changhe Z-8. Eight Israeli aircraft were re-engined with T58 engines and later sold to Argentina.


Boeing/Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche Reconnaissance and attack helicopter

The US Army's ambitious LHX (Light Helicopter Experimental) programme called for a new armed reconnaissance/scout helicopter to replace the service's force of 3 000 AH-1s, OH-6s and OH-58s. A request for proposals was issued in June 1988, and 23-month demonstration and validation contracts were placed with two industrial teamings: the 'Super Team' (Bell and McDonnell Douglas) and the 'First Team' (Boeing and Sikorsky).
In April 1991 the designation and name RAH-66 Comanche were selected and the First Team was announced as winner. The Comanche is designed for minimum observability and is based on a stealthy airframe built largely of composite materials. 
Its advanced avionics are designed for maximum commonality with the F-22 Raptor, and include dual triplex fly-by-wire control systems with sidestick cyclic pitch controllers, a 'glass' cockpit with two large liquid-crystal displays in each cockpit, advanced crew helmet displays and sights, a comprehensive self-protection suite, and provision for Longbow radar.
   Development of the RAH-66 Comanche has been slowed by technical considerations as well as political antipathy and budgetary delays. The definitive programme emerged in 1995, and called for two YRAH-66 flying prototypes (the first flying on 4 January 1996) plus six 'early operational capability' helicopters with reconnaissance equipment but no armament for trials from 2001. In 1998 the planned total was 1292 helicopters with the possibility of 389 to be added later, however the whole programme was canceled in 2004.

Boeing AH-64D Longbow Apache Attack helicopter

Beginning in the late 1980s, the US Army planned a series of upgrades to its AH-64A fleet. The major upgrade is centred around the Northrop Grumman APG-78 Longbow milimetric-wavelength fire-control radar allied to new AGM-114L Hellfire 2 missiles. During 1992 McDonnell Douglas converted four AH-64As with this radar to act as proof-of-concept aircraft for a variant designated AH-64D. The Designations AH-64B and AH-64C for interim variants were later dropped so that the AH-64D Apache became the second operational Apache variant.
   Longbow is readily identifiable by the mast-mounted antenna for its radar. It allows the AGM-114 L to be fired in an autonomous fire-and-forget mode, whereas the laser-guided Hellfire requires external designation or use in conjunction with the TADS, and as such is a line-of-sight and non fire-and-forget  weapon. The APG-78 radar can detect, classify and prioritise 12 targets simultaneously, and can see through the fog an smoke that currently foils infra-red or TV sensors.
   The AH-64D also features improvements in targeting, battle management, cockpit, communications, weapons and navigation systems. The forward avionics bay is expanded, and the landing gear fairings are extended forward to accommodate some of the new equipment.
   Entering service in 1995, early aircraft lack the radar system fitted to the definitive AH-64D Longbow Apache that followed from 1997. Early in 1999 the US Army finally decided that 530 AH-64As would be upgraded to D standard, for which 500 Longbow systems would be procured, and that the other 218 surviving AH-64As would be passed to the Air National Guard as a partial replacement for its Bell AH-1s. The AH-64D is also be flown by Israel, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (where it is built under license for the RAF by Westland as the WAH-64D).

Boeing AH-64A Apache Attack helicopter

Designed in 1972 to meet the US Army's need for an AAH (Advanced Attack Helicopter), the AH-64A has taken over the mantle of the world's premier attack helicopter from the Bell AH-1 HueyCobra. The first Hughes YAH-64 prototype flew on 30 September 1975, the programme coming under the jurisdiction of McDonnell Douglas from August 1985 and Boeing from 1997.
   Features of the Apache include two T700 engines flat-rated to provide high emergency power, with large Black Hole IR-suppressing exhaust systems, a large flat-plate canopy with boran armour, multi-spar stainless steel and glassfibre rotor blades designed to withstand 23-mm hits, comprehensive avionics and weapon fits, and numerous features to protect the crew, including crash-resistant seats and an airframe designed to withstand ballistic impact from guns up to 12.7-mm caliber.
   The Apache's primary sensor is the Martin Marietta TADS/PNVS (Target Acquisition and Designation Sight/Pilot's Night Vision System) that combines a low-light level TV, laser designator and FLIR (forward-looking infra-red). Both crew members use various sophisticated sensors and systems for the detection and attack of targets, including the IHADSS (Integrated Helmet And Display Sighting System) which provides a monocular helmet-mounted designator/sight.
   Some 827 AH-64As were eventually procured by the US Army and the helicopter entered service in July 1986. The helicopter was first blooded in combat during Operation Just Cause over Panama in December 1989, and went on to serve with devastating effect during the 1991 Gulf War - Apaches fired the first shots of that short-lived conflict. AH-64As have been exported to Egypt, Greece, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

   The AH-64D is an upgraded version, also known as the Longbow Apache, witted new fire control radar. This attack helicopter is compatible with the latest Hellfire 2 missiles.

Bell AH-1 HueyCobra Attack helicopter

 In 7 September 1965 Bell flew the prototype of the world's first dedicated attack helicopter. Based on the Model 204 utility helicopter, the Model 209 introduced a new slim fuselage with a fighter-type cockpit. The pilot sits high in the rear with a co-pilot/gunner lower in the front directing the fire of a wide range of weapons mounted on lateral stub wings or under the nose. The AH-1G HueyCobra went into production in 1966 and over 1 000 were delivered in the first four years. The AH-1G saw extensive service in Vietnam.
   The AH-1J SeaCobra was the first twin-engine version, for the US Marine Corps, with a 1 800 hp T400 installation; in 1974-5 a batch of 202 with TOW missiles was supplied to Iran.
   The AH-1Q was an interim US Army version with TOW missiles, produced by conversion from AH-1G airframes, while the AH-1S, fitted with the 1 800-shp T53-703 engine was a production HueyCobra with TOW capability and other improvements. A number of AH-1Q aircraft were also modified to -1S standards, while AH-1S model aircraft were themselves modified into a number of variants. In addition, the AH-1P was produced by conversion of AH-1S helicopters with flat-plate canopies and other revisions. This confusing situation was resolved in 1987, when all surviving US Army HueyCobras were updated to a common AH-1F standard.
   Fuji-Bell has produced the AH-1S as an equivalent of the AH-1F for the Japans Ground Self Defense Forces. Having evolved through the AH-1J and TOW-capable AH-1T, in 2001, the USMC's SeaCobra was represented by the AH-1W SuperCobra. This Hellfire-toting machine was upgraded in a similar manner to the USMC UH-1N fleet to AH-1Z standard, featuring a four-bladed rotor and many other changes for continued service well into the 21st century. Both single- and twin-engined Model 209s have been widely exported.

OH-58 Kiowa Scout and observation helicopter

Developed from the civil Bell Model 206A JetRanger helicopter, the US Army's OH-58 Kiowa served extensively in Vietnam in the light observation and scout roles. The Model 206 was built in significant numbers for military service and remains in widespread use with the US Army in upgraded OH-58C form. Numerous foreign air arms also operate the military Model 206A/Bs primarily in the training role. The type also serves as a trainer with the US Navy as the TH-57 SeaRanger and with the US Army as the TH-67A Creek.
   The Model 406 was developed to meet a US Army requirement for a helicopter capable of observation duties, as well as support of attack helicopters and direction of artillery fire. The Model 406 introduced a mast-mounted sight, specialized avionics and a four-bladed main rotor with composite blades. Some 424 OH-58Ds were converted from previous OH-58 models in a process that was completed in 1998.
   The first OH-58D prototype made its maiden flight on 6 October 1983. Deliveries began in December 1985, and the first deliveries to a Europe-based unit took place in June 1987. Under Operation Prime Chance, 15 OH-58Ds were modified from September 1987 for operations against Iranian fast patrol boats in the Persian Gulf: provision was made for Stinger air-to-air missiles and Hellfire anti-tank guided missiles in addition to 0.5-in (12.7-mm) machine-gun pods and rocket launchers. 

The armament options of the Prime Chance OH-58D were retained for an armed OH-58D version, designated as the OH-58D(I) Kiowa Warrior, to which standard all OH-58Ds have been upgraded. Taiwan is the only operator of new-build full-standard OH-58Ds, receiving 26 examples from July 1993. Saudi Arabia operates 15 of the simplified Model 406CS Combat Scout variant.

Denel AH-2 Rooivalk Attack helicopter

The Atlas (now Denel) Rooivalk (red kestrel) is the first operational result of a development programme launched in 1981 for an indigenous attack helicopter. The programme initially involved the XH-1 Alpha and XTP-2 Beta as concept-proving and systems test-beds. The definitive Rooivalk prototype, originally designated XH-2 (Experimental Helicopter No.2), made its maiden flight on 11 February 1990. The type was later redesignated CSH-2 (Combat Support Helicopter No.2) and, later still XDM (Experimental Development Model). A second prototype, the ADM (Advanced Development Model) flew soon after this and was tasked with avionics and weapons development.
   Although it looks like an entirely new machine, the Rooivalk is based on a degree of reverse engineering of the Aerospatiale Puma, using the same engines (albeit in slightly uprated form) and main rotor.

   The stepped tandem cockpits for the pilot and co-pilot/gunner (rear and front respectively) have dual controls, as well as three LCD displays. The third display is used for threat warning. There is no head-up display, but symbology is displayed on the helmet visor in full colour. A gyro-stabilised turret at the nose contains an automatic target detection and tracking system which incorporates a laser rangefinder, forward-looking infra-red and TV camera, and the two crewmen each have a helmet-mounted sight system.

   The South African air force has ordered an initial 16 examples as four operational evaluation and 12 operational helicopters. The full production standard Rooivalk will feature improved IR exhaust suppressors and enlarged sonson cheeks housing avionics and ammunition. A pair of external seats can be fitted to these cheeks, allowing a Rooivalk to pick up the crew of a downed helicopter, or to transport special forces soldiers. 

No16 Sqn, the SAAF's first Rooivalk unit, received its first AH-2A (as the aircraft is known in service) in May 1999, and also received the last of its 12 examples in 2001.

Kamov Ka-52 Hokum-B Attack helicopter

 The Kamov Ka-52 Alligator (NATO designation Hokum-B) is a two-seat version of the Ka-50. It is a multi-role all-weather attack helicopter, capable operating in daytime and at night. Development started in 1994 and the type was first flown in 1997. The Ka-52 has been ordered for Russian service, and it's small-scale series production commenced in 2008. However it is unlikely that the Hokum-B will be fielded in large numbers due to budget restrictions. By 2012 only 30 helicopters will be delivered. This helicopter is also proposed for export customers.
   The Ka-52 can be recognized from the Ka-50 by a wider nose and twin-seat cockpit. Seats are arranged side-by-side. This helicopter can be used as a trainer. Both pilots have full controls of the helicopter. Such arrangement also simplifies work during combat. The Ka-52 shares 85% of it's airframe, parts, components and systems with the Ka-50. Most of the changes were made to the cockpit.
   The Kamov Ka-52 Alligator is fitted with uprated TV3-117VMA turboshaft engines. The Hokum-B has unique maneuverability, which was derived from it's two coaxial contra-rotating main rotors. It is among the most maneuverable helicopters in the world.

   Armor of the Alligator withstands hits from 23-mm projectiles. Pilots are seated in ejection seats. It can also fly when one engine is disabled.

   The Hokum-B has a battlefield management system. It can exchange data with with similar helicopters or other helicopter types, as well as third party sources. This helicopter is also intended as an aerial command post for a group of helicopters. It provides target detection and coordinates the attacks.

   The Ka-52 retained all combat capabilities of it's predecessor. It is armed with a side-mounted 30-mm cannon. There are six external hardpoints for different combinations of weapons, including anti-tank missiles (Vikhr, Vikhr-M), air-to-air missiles (Igla-V), rocket pods, bombs. For anti-armor missions it is armed with up to 12 Vikhr ATGMs. These have a range of up to 8 000 m and penetrate 950 mm of armor.

Kamov Ka-50 Hokum Attack helicopter

The Ka-50 Chernaya Akula (black shark, NATO designation Hokum) was planned as a rival to the Mi-28 Havoc in a competition to provide the Soviet armed forces with a new battlefield attack helicopter. Kamov opted for a single-crew layout to save weight for more amour, more powerful armament, and a greater number of advanced sensors. The first of three V-80 prototypes made its maiden flight on 17 June 1982. In October 1986 the Ka-50 was selected for production.
   The core of the Ka-50's weapon system is the tube-launched Vikhr anti-tank missile, of which 16 are carried. the Ka-50's cannon has variable rates of fire and selective feed from two ammunition boxes. Survivability is enhanced by features including infra-red suppression of the hot exhaust gases, layered cockpit amour and chaff/flare dispensers in wing tip pods. The pilot can escape the aircraft via a K-37 ejection seat, after the rotor blades have been explosively separated.
   Later revision of the requirement to emphasize night combat capability led to a reassessment of the Ka-50 Hocum, whose production was postponed, in the light of the two-seat Mi-28's apparently greater developability for the task.


   Ka-50N (Nochnoy, or night). The type first flew in 1997 and has a forward-looking infra red (FLIR) turret and mast-mounted radar;

   Ka-50-2 Erdogan export derivative with a two-seat cockpit, fitted with Israeli avionics. It has been offered to China, India and Turkey, but received no production orders;

   Ka-52 Alligator (Hokum-B) is a side-by-side two-seat conversion trainer and day/night combat derivative. It also features uprated TV3-117 engines and milimetric-wavelength radar. First flown in production form on 25 June 1997, the type has been ordered for Russian service.

Mil Mi-28 Havoc Attack helicopter

Despite its reported defeat by the Ka-50 Hokum, Mil received an order for a small batch of the Mi-28 Havoc combat helicopters from the Russian armed forces and continues to actively market the type.

   The first of four prototypes made its maiden flight on 10 November 1982. The third and fourth prototypes were completed to Mi-28A standard with uprated engines exhausting via downward-inclined diffusers. The fourth production-standard prototype also had a moving, gyro-stabilized, undernose electro-optical sensor turret and wing-tip pods carrying electronic counter measures and chaff dispensers.

   The Mi-28 has a conventional helicopter gunship layout with the pilot in the rear and gunner in front. It is armed with a 30-mm trainable cannon housed in a turret under the nose. Twin 150-round ammunition boxes are co-mounted to traverse, elevate and depress with the gun itself. The gun is identical to that of Russian BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle and uses the same ammunition.
   The Mi-28's cockpit is compatible with night vision goggles; the pilot has a head-up display and one CRT on which TV imaging can be displayed. The primary sensor package comprises the optical sights and laser rangefinder in an undernose turret. The crew are protected by energy-absorbing seats and an emergency escape system allows the crew to escape safely by parachute. A hatch in the port side, to the rear of the wing, gives access to the avionics compartment and a space large enough to accommodate two or three passengers during a combat rescue.
   In 1994 Russian army funding allowed modification of the first Mi-28A prototype to Mi-28N configuration. This introduced a mast-mounted MMW Kinzhal V or Arbalet radar, composite rotor blades, forward-looking infra-red, an electronic flight instrumentation system cockpit, improved armament options including Igla air-to-air missiles and uprated TV3-117VK engines. The Mi-28N made its first flight in April 1997. Mil also proposes a variant of the Mi-28 for support of amphibious naval assaults.

Mil Mi-24 Hind Attack helicopter

The Mi-24 (NATO designation Hind) is one of the most widely-known assault helicopter gunships in the world, and remains in service with over 35 air arms.

   The Mi-24 was developed from the tried and tested Mi-8 multirole transport helicopter and was first flown in V-24 prototype form in 1969. Production commenced in 1971 and ceased in 1991. Over 2 300 Hinds of al variants were produced.

   The definitive initial production variant was the Mi-24D Hind-D (Mi-25 for export). This introduced heavily-armored, stepped cockpits ant an undernose gun turret. This gunship has a crew of three and can carry up to 8 fully-equipped troops.

   From 1976 to 1978, the Hind-D was joined in service by the up-engined Mi-24V Hind-E (export Mi-35), which also featured improved armament of tube-launched 9M114 Shturm (AT-6 Spiral) ATGMs.

   Combat experience in Afghanistan led to the development of the Mi-24P Hind-F with a 30-mm GSh-30K twinbarrel cannon mounted on the forward fuselage. Later specialised Hind variants include the Mi-24RKR Hind-G1 NBC reconnaissance helicopter; Mi-24K Hind-G2 for artillery fire correction; Mi-24BMT minesweeper conversion and Mi-24PS for paramilitary use.

   At the beggining of the 21 century Mi-24s remains in widespread service, the Russian army being the most significant operator with around 700 helicopters. Other major users include Algeria, Angola, Belarus, Czech Republic, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Libya and Poland. The market for upgrades is substantial, with an estimated 1 600 Hinds remaining in service. 

A number of programmes are available. The Mi-24M (export Mi-35M) is available from Mil as a staged upgrade that includes a refurbished airframe for prolonged service, Mi-28 dynamic systems, upgraded 2 194-shp (1 636-kW) TV3-117VMA engines, and MFD-equipped cockpit compatible with night vision googles, pilot's head-up display, forward-looking infra-red, a nose turret carrying a GSh-231 23-mm two-barrel cannon, 9M120 (AT-12 Swinger) ATGMs, and compatibility with 9M39 Igla (SA-18 Grouse) air-to-air missiles. Mil proposes to upgrade around 200 Russian Federation Hinds to these standards as Mi-24VMs, but the future of this programme is uncertain.

   The Mi-24 has seen widespread combat action, fighting in Afghanistan, Chad, Angola, Sri Lanka and, most recently, in the wars in Chechnya in 1995 and 1999.

Kawasaki OH-1 Light scout and observation helicopter

 From the mid-1980s the Japan Defence Agency (JDA), began to consider a successor to the OH-6D light helicopters currently in service with the Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force. It was decided to procure an indigenous type for the scout/reconnaissance roles. In 1992 Kawasaki was selected as prime contractor with 60 percent of the programme, the balance being allocated equally between Fuji and Mitsubishi. The three companies established the Observation Helicopter Engineering Team to develop the programme, on which detailed work began in 1992.
   The resulting OH-1, nicknamed Ninja, is a conventional machine that is relatively small and of typical gunship helicopter configuration. Its structure comprises, by weight, 40 per cent carbonfibre-reinforced plastics, and it features a fenestron type tail rotor.
   Each crew member has two LCD colour multi-function displays, and the gunner has a head-up display. The mission avionics include a trainable roof-mounted Kawasaki package (forward of the main rotor) with a Fujitsu thermal imager, NEC colour TV camera and NEC laser rangefinder. Protection is enhanced by the installation of an infra-red jammer on the helicopter's spine to rear of the main gearbox.
   The first of six prototypes made its initial flight on 6 August 1996, and the first of a possible 150 to 200 OH-1s was delivered to the JGSDF on 24 January 2000. A total of 14 OH-1s has been ordered for delivery by 2001. The JDA may revise the OH-1 to meet its AH-X light attack helicopter requirement. This would probably feature MTR-390 or T800 engines, allowing the introduction of a heavier weapons load and revised mission avionics. The projected designation of the AH-X production model is AH-2.

Agusta A 129 Mangusta Lightweight attack helicopter

 Conceived in response to an Italian Army requirement of the mid-1970s, the A 129 Mangusta (Mongoose) was the first dedicated attack helicopter to be designed, built and deployed by a European country. It was also the first in the world to be built around an advanced MIL-STD 1553B digital databus, which allows a high degree of automation, considerably reducing the crew workload. The first A 129 prototype made its official maiden flight on 15 September 1983 at Cascina Costa (although it had already taken to the air twice before on 11 and 13 September).
   The original Italian requirement had been for 100 Mangustas in distinct anti-tank and scout versions, but as the threat of all-out war in Europe receded, the final order was cut back to 60 A 129s. In the event, a total of 45 A 129s was delivered to AVES (Aviazone Escercito - Italian army aviation) between October 1990 and 1992, when production was stopped.
   Funding problems, and changing operational needs, forced the Italian army to re-evaluate its requirement for dedicated anti-tank helicopters. The need for a more multi-role helicopter was reinforced when Mangustas were deployed on UN peacekeeping duties to Somalia between 1992 and 1994. The Mangusta's primary TOW missile armament left it inflexible where combat against tanks was not a priority mission. 
Hence, Agusta has developed the Mangusta International, which features an undernose 20-mm cannon, uprated 1 362-shp (1 016-kW) AlliedSignal LHTEC CTS800-2 engines and a five-bladed main rotor system. This aircraft also retains the HeliTOW target acquisition system, making it a highly versatile combat helicopter. The Italian army began to receive Mangusta in International form in 2002 with Rolls-Royce engines. Furthemrore in 2002 Italian helicopter manufacturers were awarded a contract to upgrade all operational Mangustas to the International standard, which is also being actively marketed for export.

Eurocopter Tiger Attack helicopter

The RC 665, known in France as the Tigre and in Germany as the Tiger, was planned in 1984 to meet French and German requirements for an advanced multi-role type for battlefield operations in the typical European scenario. After much deliberation Eurocopter received a contract to build five prototype/development helicopters in November 1989. Three were to be unarmed aerodynamic testbeds and the other two armed prototypes for the basically similar Tiger/Tigre anti-tank variants required by Germany and France (one prototype), and for a French escort helicopter variant.
   The basic type is of typical attack helicopter configuration with an airframe built largely of composite materials and optimised for high-survivability over the modern battlefield. The first prototype made its maiden flight in April 1991. Three versions are being developed in two basic layouts. The ALAT requires 100 HAC (Helicoptere Anti-Char) anti-tank helicopters while the German army needs 212 UHT (Unterstutzungshubschrauber Tiger) anti-tank/multi-role support helicopters.
   Both HAC and UHT share a common mast-mounted TV/forward-looking infra-red/ laser rangefinder sighting system for the gunner, nose-mounted forward-looking infra-red for the pilot and Trigat missile armament. The UHT may later be fitted with a turret-mounted 30-mm Mauser cannon.
   The Tigre HAP (Helicoptere d'Appui et de protection) is being developed for the French army, which requires 115 such examples for the escort and fire support roles. The HAP carries a chin turret-mounted 30-mm GIAT M30/781B cannon, STRIX roof-mounted sight plus armament of up to 68 SNEB 68-mm rockets and Mistral AAMs.

   In June 1999 both French and German governments signed a production contract for an initial batch of 160 helicopters. The first Tiger and Tigre entered German and French service in 2002 and 2003 respectively.

Z-10 Attack helicopter

The Z-10 attack helicopter is under development in China. It's development began in the mid-1990s. Prototype of the Z-10 made it's maiden flight in 2003. It seems that initial production gunships were delivered to the Chinese army in 2009-2010. It will be the first dedicated modern Chinese attack helicopter. It has been designed with extensive technical assistance from Eurocopter and Augusta.
   Primary mission of the Z-10 is anti-armor and battlefield interdiction. It also has some limited air-to-air combat capabilities.

   The Z-10 helicopter has a standard gunship configuration with a narrow fuselage and stepped tandem cockpits. Gunner is seated at the front and the pilot is at the rear. The fuselage has sloped sides to reduce radar cross section. All vital areas are believed to be protected by armor plates.

   Weapons of the Z-10 may consist of 30-mm cannon, HJ-9 anti-tank guided missiles (comparable to the TOW-2A), newly developed HJ-10 anti-tank missiles (comparable to the AGM-114 Hellfire) and TY-90 air-to-air missiles. It can also carry unoperated rocket pods.

   The prototype of the Z-10 is powered by two Canadian Pratt & Whitney PT6C-67C turboshaft engines, delivering 1 531 hp each. However indigenous engines might be used on production helicopters. It might use the same engine of the WZ-9 helicopter, but it is less powerful than Canadian design.

   This helicopter may be fitted with a fly-by-wire control, helmet-mounted sight for head-up display, television and forward-looking infrared sensors, radar and laser warning receivers, infrared jammer and decoy dispensers.

   It is believed that that the Z-10 attack helicopter is in the same class as the AH-2 Rooivalk and the A-129 Mangusta, however it is not as capable as the AH-64 Apache.