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The First Flight Of Polish AW101

The first of the four multipurpose AW101 helicopters ordered by Poland took to the air for its first flight from the Leonardo Helicopters airfield.

In the afternoon of July 19 at the Leonardo Helicopters’s Yeovil airstrip, the first of the four 16 ton multipurpose AW101 helicopters ordered by Poland took to the air for its first flight. Fully delivery of the four helicopters intended for the Polish Naval Aviation Brigade should be complete by the end of the next year.

The first of the four multipurpose AW101 helicopters ordered by Poland took to the air for its first flight from the Leonardo Helicopters airfield.

The preparations for the flight test have been taking place since June 27, when the helicopter with temporary UK registration number ZR285 was photographed by spotters on the airstrip in front of the final assembly hangar, still without the main rotor blades. Further photographs of the finished helicopter appeared on the web on July 12. Before the flight test itself, on July 17, Leonardo Helicopters’ technicians performed ground tests.

The Polish Ministry Of National Defence ordered four AW101 helicopters on April 26, 2019, for 1.65 billion złoty. The purchase covered training and logistic support, together with medical equipment. The helicopters were ordered in Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR/SAR) and Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) configurations.

Earlier, on April 8, 2019, the Ministry Of National Defense signed a 395,882,751 złoty worth offset agreement with Leonardo MW, Thales DMS France, and MES (Meccanica per L’Elettronica e Servomeccanismi). It covers nine obligations, whose main beneficients will be Military Aviation Works—WZL1 and Marine Military Technologies Center of Gdansk University Of Technology. A new Helicopter Operations Support Center is formed in Łódź, which will be providing full technical support, servicing, and repairs of the new helicopters, which required acquisition of the technological know-how regarding their support. A relevant executive contract was signed on January 8, 2020.

By the end of 2022, 44th Naval Aviation Base in Darłowo will receive four AW101 helicopters in CSAR/ASW configurations where they will replace old Mi-14PŁ and Mi-14PŁ/R / Photos: MON

While the final assembly of AW101 is taking place in the United Kingdom, some of the helicopter parts are being produced in Leonardo-owned PZL-Świdnik works. On December 6, 2019, production of the two first structural elements was announced: a lower frontal part of the hull (including floor of the crew cabin) and a ceiling plate. Świdnik also makes fairing assemblies for engines and transmissions, nose compartment and fairing, avionics boxes, hatches, main and side consoles, rear fuselage, and rear ramp. PZL-Świdnik also received certification regarding designing and installing internal medical and rescue gear, upholstery, servicing key systems, removal and application of paint coatings, and balancing the helicopters.

Little is known regarding helicopters’ other equipment. Photos published by spotters showed a lack of a loading ramp. On September 17, 2020, French company Thales announced an order of Folding Light Acoustic System for Helicopters (FLASH) sonar system for Polish AW101. FLASH is a submersible, broadband, low-frequency (3-5 kHz) sonar used for detection and localization of underwater threats. Its maximum operational depth is 750 meters, it can be lowered or raised 8.5 meters per second. The device weighs 306 kg with a cable.

It was unofficially mentioned that the helicopters will receive gunnery stations with 5.56 or 7.62 mm machine guns. There are also talks of ordering four more helicopters (purchase of eight vehicles had been planned until 2018, when the number was cut down to half). Polish AW101 will be stationed at the 44th Naval Aviation Base in Darłowo, where they will replace worn out Mi-14PŁ and Mi-14PŁ/R.


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