Three of the Italian Navy’s AgustaWestland AW101 amphibious support helicopters will be deployed to Afghanistan for a one-year tour beginning in October 2010.

The naval unit, Task Group Shark, has been assigned to the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command West structure, according to

Aircraft from the navy’s 1st Helicopter Squadron at Luni, along with 55 personnel and an aeromedical evacuation team will involve in the 12-month deployment.

Italian fleet air arm commander Rear Admiral Paolo Treu said that the army had a specific training and maintenance activity in progress to prepare crews and helicopters for the Afghan environment.

The amphibious support helicopters are being equipped with improved ballistic protection, defensive aids equipment and 7.62mm machine guns as part of its preparation for deployment.

The Italian Navy’s former deployment involves Agusta-Bell AB212s and Sikorksy SH-3D Sea Kings to Afghanistan, which practically demanded a more-capable aircraft for the high terrain and medical evacuation missions.