AgustaWestland's AW149 Makes Maiden Flight By tom kington Published: 16 Nov 2009 12:47 ROME - AgustaWestland has completed the maiden flight of the prototype of its AW149 multirole military medium twin helicopter, the firm said. The 20-minute flight took place at AgustaWestland's Vergiate facility in Italy on Nov. 13. A second prototype will be ready in 2010, with initial operational capability expected by 2014. The 8-ton AW149, which will sit up to 18 passengers, has been developed to meet an Italian Air Force requirement for a new medium search-and-rescue (SAR) helicopter, while a variant, named the TUHP149, is being considered for the Turkish utility helicopter program. While the first prototype matches the airframe and avionics of the final configuration, the second prototype will incorporate the final configuration's two 2,000 shp class GE CT7-2E1 turbines with Fadec and a new transmission system. AgustaWestland said the AW149 was suited to troop transport, battlefield and logistic operations, fire support, SAR and combat SAR, special forces operations, reconnaissance, surveillance, casualty evacuation, command control and communication, external load lifting, as well as VIP military transport. Separately, AgustaWestland's Finmeccanica stablemate Selex Galileo announced Nov. 16 it had been awarded a 10 million pound ($16.7 billion) upgrade contract for U.K. Chinook helicopters. Under the deal, Selex Galileo will supply 21 electro-optic Titan 385ES-HD airborne turrets and upgrade four existing Chinook Titan 385ES turrets to the HD configuration. The Titan 385ES-HD contains sensors, including a high-definition SLX Merlin medium waveband infrared camera which uses Albion thermal imaging technology developed by Selex Galileo with co-funding from the U.K. Ministry of Defence. The turrets will be delivered between February 2010 and July 2011, Selex Galileo said.