The Armed Forces of Malta this afternoon welcomed an Augusta Bell twin-engined helicopter, the first helicopter to be bought new in the history of the Maltese service.

It is also the first helicopter to be delivered to the AFM since the 1980s.

The grey-painted helicopter flew in from Milan and landed at the AFM Air Wing base shortly after 6 p.m. Prior to landing it performed a low-level flypast escorted by a King Air patrol aircraft.

The AW139, an intermediate class helicopter, was bought with EU funds and has been equipped for a range of operations including maritime patrol and air ambulance.

It has a high-definition thermal imaging system, search/weather radar, cabin mission console, naval transponder, search light, satellite communication system, a four-axis autopilot with search and rescue modes, external rescue hoist and four bag floatation system.

The AW139 has a maximum speed of 193mph, a range of almost 600 miles, and service ceiling of 20,000 feet. It will enhance the AFM’s capability to operate out at sea for an extended duration and at a greater distance than what is currently possible.

The contract, consisting of one AW139 helicopter, special tools, ground support and common aviation equipment, and training for pilots and technicians was worth €20,420,726. A second aircraft is on order.

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