ITAF Experimental Flight Unit supports Italian Coast Guard ship-helicopter integration tests

Coast Guard ship helicopter integration
Italian Coast Guard PH-139 helicopter and personnel of the Italian Air Force, Italian Coast Guard and Italian Navy on the Dattilo's flight deck.

The Experimental Flight Department of the Italian Air Force recently conducted a test campaign to certify the interoperability between PH-139 helicopters and ships of the Italian Coast Guard. The activities were carried out at the Pratica di Mare Air Base, Rome, and in the vicinity of the Strait of Messina, Sicily, from 5 to 13 May 2022.

This campaign marked the final phase of a program started about two years ago which developed through technical meetings between the Coast Guard and the Leonardo Helicopter Division. They defined the parameters of conduct of the activities in accordance with the procedures of the Italian Navy.

The good result achieved was made possible thanks to the strong collaboration between the Experimental Flight Department, the crew of the Dattilo ship (the Coast Guard unit involved in the tests) and a team of the Italian Navy specialized in flight operations.

The Experimental Flight Department planned, coordinated, directed and carried out the flight tests to demonstrate the technical capabilities of the platform.

The tests included:

- an assessment of the controllability of the PH-139 at low altitude, low speeds and high weights;

- technical assessments of activities necessary to allow the helicopter to board, such as refueling, lashing (anchoring the helicopter to the flight deck) and handling the aircraft on the ship's flight deck. During this activity a team of the Italian Air Force conducted a hot refueling with AW139 as the first time ever for the type;

- evaluation of the dynamic interference between helicopter and ship, with the aim of validating the technical limits of wind and heeling of the ship during the take-off and landing phases.

The tests made it possible to collect important technical evidence to facilitate the issue of certification for naval interoperability by the Italy's Directorate for Air Armaments and Airworthiness (DAAA, the Italian Ministry of Defence's certification authority).

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Images: Italian Air Force

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