Fact file: Agusta A109LUH light utility helicopter


Agusta A109LUH
Light utility helicopter
Country of origin:               
Italy, 25 locally assembled.
First flight:                            
Delivered to the SAAF:      
From October 19, 2005.
Associated project name(s):
R1949 million (1999 constant Rand). R2.39 billion in the 2007 defence budget vote, R2.451 billion in the 2008 defence budget vote.
Pilot, co-pilot.  
Major dimensions & weights
·         Wingspan (rotor diameter):      
·         Number of rotor blades:
·         Wingspan (tail rotor diameter):
·         Number of tail rotor blades:
·         Length (fuselage):      
·         Length (rotor running):
·         Height:                          
·         Max cabin width:                       
·         Basic empty weight:   
·         Max take-off weight:
·         Max landing weight:  
·         Max internal fuel:
·         Max external fuel:
·         Max cargo weight:
·         Cockpit & cabin volume:
·         Baggage compartment: 
·         Passengers:                  
·         10.83m (35.53ft).
·         4.
·         1.94m (6.36ft).
·         2.
·         11.45m (37.59ft).
·         12.94m (42.45ft).
·         .4m (11.15ft).
·         1.61m (5.28ft).            
·         1.67mt (3602lbs).
·         3/3.2mt (6614/7055lbs or 3.175mt (7000lbs).
·         –
·         881 litres (5 cells).
·         –
·         –
·         5.10m3 (180.17ft3).
·         0.95m3 (33.55ft3). 
·         6 normal, 8 max.
Performance (MGW ISA-5L clean configuration)
·         Operating conditions:                
·         Take-off to clear 15m:              
·         Landing from 15m:                   
·         Rate of climb:                                
·         Service ceiling:                            
·         Max operating speed:                
·         Max cruise speed:         
·         Max range at cruise speed:         
·         Max endurance:         
·         Stall speed:  
·         G-loads:                                        
·         Wing loading:              
·         Thrust:          
·         Bypass ratio:
·         Thrust/weight ratio:                    
·         -40deg C to +50deg C.
·         –
·         –
·         MCP: 9m/s (1780ft/min) OEI[2]: 4.8m/s (950ft/min).
·         6096m (20,000ft).
·         168kts (311km/h).
·         153kts (283km/h). 
·         935km (505nm).
·         –
·         With 881 litres of fuel and no reserve at 6000ft: 4hrs 54min.
·         –
·         –
·         –
·         –
·         –
·         –
Engine Specifications
·         Make:                                           
·         Model:          
·         Type:            
·         Number:       
·         Compression ratio:                     
·         Engine diameter:                        
·         Engine length:                             
·         Dry weight:  
·         Power turbine rotor speed:        
·         Shaft horsepower (max continuous):
·         SHP (max contingency):
·         Transmission rating:  
·         Turbomeca.
·         Arius 2K2.
·         Turbine.
·         2.
·         –
·         –
·         –
·         –
·         –
·         609 (454kW) each.
·         791 (590kW) each.    
·         900 SHP (671 kW).
Hard points:                        
Provision for two pylons (can carry 300kg each).
Various options, including: pintle mounted 7.62mm or 12.7mm door machine guns. The pylons can each accommodate a 7-, 12 or 19-round 70 or 81mm unguided rocket pod, twin 7.62mm GPMG, 12.7mm HMG or 20mm cannon pods, combined cannon/rocket pods, four-round ZT3/Ingwe or similar anti-tank missiles or two Mistral air-to-air missiles. 
Other attachments:            
Optional auxiliary equipment includes an external loudspeaker system, windshield wipers, a wire strike protection system, bleed air heater, environmental control unit, one or two longitudal stretchers, 500kg internal cargo platform, single or dual external cargo hooks, taking 500kg or 1mt respectively, rear view mirror, 270kg rescue hoist, snow skids, slump protection pads, emergency floats, engine particle separator, engine fire extinguisher, closed circuit refueling system, SX16 high-intensity search light, FLIR/TV sensors and a gyro stabilised sight. Survivability equipment includes armoured seats for the pilots, chaff and flare dispensers, a crashworthy fuel system and self-sealing fuel tanks, radar and laser illumination warning systems and an infrared jammer.  
Project Flange is the black sheep of the 1999 Strategic Defence Package and has been beset with difficulties and delays. 
The A109LUH was selected in competition with the Bell 427 (Canada), Eurocopter Cougar and the Eurocopter EC635 (both Franco/German).
Thirty were ordered with an option for ten more that has not been exercised.
South African companies involved in the project include Saab SA, Denel Optronics (now Carl Zeiss Optronics), Tellumat and Waymark.
The cockpit is ergonomically designed and its three 6×8 inch flat screen digital displays are compatible with night vision goggles and fully capable of IFR[3]/IMC. The helicopter boasts a four-bladed, fully articulated rotor for low flicker/low acoustic detectability as well as low vibration.
The blades are ballistic tolerant. All critical systems are duplicated and separated for low vulnerability. The helicopter`s fuel tanks are self-sealing and protected against 12.7mm Armour-Piercing Incendiary hits.
Four 87 Helicopter Flying School pilots completed the inaugural conversion course in early October 2005. Three instructor pilots and a pilot followed later than same month. The first technical course was completed in September 2005, the second in November and the third in January 2006.
Air Force chief Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano has said the SAAF requires the type to take pressure off the Oryx fleet. The service has long had the need for a platform more capable than the Alouette III but less expensive and more efficient than the Oryx for the bulk of taskings.
The A109 is expected to fill that niche. The helicopter is said to be well suited to tasks such as light passenger and cargo transport, patrolling and reconnaissance, liaison and command, medical evacuation, light attack and antitank, escort and area suppression.
The Chief of the Air Force in March 2007[4] said the rotorcraft was cleared for command-and-control, Casevac, trooping and cargo-slinging duties.
However, operational reports suggest the type is – depending on one`s point of view underpowered or alternatively too heavy to with too low a payload to fully fulfil these tasks.
Airforces Monthly, the authoritative global aviation magazine reported in September 2008 that “continuing delays” had meant that by in the delivery to the aircraft “was already four years late” in April of that year. “As a result, on January 22, 2008, it was decided to keep the BK117 in service for a further year, as this had lower operating costs compared with the more advanced A109LUH. A budget ceiling of R6 million ($816 000) was allocated for this purpose.”
The journal adds that the A109LUH should have been fully operational in both the landward and seaward roles by January allowing for the transfer of the BK 117 to the SA Police Service Air Wing. However, airframes fitted in a  
seaward configuration – with emergency water flotation gear – was then not available. The first aircraft (airframe 4001) in a seaward configuration became available in May 2008 underwent Operational Test & Evaluation (OT&E) at 15 Squadron, based at Durban (with a flight at Port Elizabeth).   phase for the seaward configuration there when the first A109LUH fully equipped in the seaward configuration (i.e. with floatation gear) arrived.”


[2] OEI: One engine inoperative.
[3] IFR: Instrument flight rules.
[4] CAF briefing, AFB Makhado, March 9, 2007.