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Leonardo’s AW101 for Polish Navy flies for first time


The Polish Ministry of National Defence will receive four AW101 helicopters, which is already in service in NATO nations like Italy, the UK, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Portugal. (Photo: Leonardo)

The Polish Navy’s first Leonardo AW101 (ZR285) achieved its first flight on July 20 at the aircraft maker’s site in Yeovil. The flight demonstrated functional checks of the main airframe systems and control system, with engine-handling checks taken throughout to monitor the speed range of the aircraft. The flight envelope will now be opened further, explains Leonardo, with testing exploring the bespoke mission equipment fitted to the aircraft.

Leonardo explains this first flight achievement is based on collaboration with its main industrial presence in Poland, PZL-Świdnik which acts as the prime contractor, as well as Leonardo teams in Italy and the UK.

In April 2019, Leonardo announced it would supply four AW101s and a comprehensive integrated logistics and training package to the Polish Ministry of National Defence.

PZL-Świdnik is responsible for the entire contract execution, while the Leonardo team in Yeovil 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).

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The AW101 for the Polish Naval Aviation Brigade will be equipped with the 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, explains Leonardo, 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 flight represents not only the culmination of the design and production processes but also the start of the thorough testing phase of the aircraft’s development,” said Miles Barnett, Senior Test Pilot at Leonardo Helicopters (UK). “It is expected that there will be a total of 700 hours of flight testing across the four airframes which will confirm the correct function of each aircraft as well as develop and validate a broad range of mission and customer specific changes from the standard AW101.”


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