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First Leonardo AW101 naval helicopter for Polish Navy has achieved its first flight


Italian company Leonardo has announced that the Polish Navy’s first AW101 (ZR285) naval helicopter achieved its first flight on July 19, 2021, at the Company’s site in Yeovil. It is a military utility medium-lift helicopter that was manufactured by AgustaWestland (formerly EH Industries), a joint venture company formed by Agusta of Italy and the British company GKN.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 AW101 helicopter for Polish Navy has conducted its first flight on July 19, 2021. (Picture source Leonardo Twiter account)


The flight demonstrated functional checks of the main airframe systems as well as the control system, and engine-handling checks were taken throughout to monitor the speed range of the aircraft. The flight envelope will now be opened further with testing exploring the bespoke mission equipment fitted to the aircraft.

This achievement is indicative of an integrated Leonardo team spanning the United Kingdom, Poland, and Italy. It highlights the strength in collaboration between Leonardo and the Company’s main industrial presence in Poland, PZL-Świdnik which acts as the prime contractor, as all teams work closely across the three nations to ensure this high-end capability for the Polish Ministry of National Defence.

In April 2019, the company announced it would supply four AW101s and a comprehensive integrated logistics and training package to the Polish Ministry of National Defence. The aircraft will significantly enhance the Polish Navy’s helicopter capability.

PZL-Świdnik, acts as the prime contractor and is responsible for the entire contract execution, and at Leonardo in Yeovil, the team assembles the aircraft. The AW101 will perform a range of missions for the Polish Navy including Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR).

The AW101 for the Polish Naval Aviation Brigade will be equipped with the most modern mission systems, including autopilot with SAR modes, data transmission system, tactical navigation system and protection and defence systems (passive and active). In addition, the AW101 will be equipped with a tactical radio, reconnaissance radar, an observation head (FLIR) and an S-mode transponder. It will also be equipped with a 12.7 mm machine gun.

In addition, there will be a searchlight and arrayed lights, which will ensure good visibility in all-weather conditions. The aircraft will be optimized with medical and rescue equipment, including two winches and a system for carrying loads on the external suspension. In addition, the AW101 fleet will be equipped with an emergency float system, life rafts, and a cold climate survival kit.

The AW101 Merlin follows a conventional design layout, but makes use of advanced technologies, such as the design of the rotor blades, avionics systems, and extensive use of composite materials.[38] The fuselage structure is modular and comprises an aluminium-lithium alloy, designed to be both light and damage-resistant.

The AW101 is powered by three turboshaft engines. Initially the Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 and the General Electric CT7 were the two available engine types, but by 2020 new aircraft were only being sold with the CT7-8E. It can fly at a maximum speed of 278 km/h with a range of 833 km.