The Polish Navy’s lead AW101 helicopter performed its first flight on July 19, demonstrating functional checks of the main airframe and control system in addition to engine-handling checks to monitor the speed range of the aircraft.
Announcing the flight on July 20, manufacturer Leonardo said the flight envelope would be opened further with testing of mission equipment fitted to the aircraft. In April 2019, Leonardo announced it would supply four AW101s and an integrated logistics and training package to the Polish Ministry of National Defence.
Leonardo said that the achievement “highlights the strength in collaboration” between the company and its main industrial presence in Poland, PZL-Świdnik, which acts as the prime contractor. As prime, PZL-Świdnik is responsible for the contract execution with manufacture taking place at Leonardo’s Yeovil, UK, site.
Once in service the AW101 will perform a range of missions for the Polish Navy including anti-submarine warfare and combat search and rescue (SAR).
The AW101 for the Polish Naval Aviation Brigade will be equipped with a range of mission systems, including autopilot with SAR modes, data transmission system, tactical navigation system, as well as active and passive protection and defence systems.
In addition, the type will be equipped with a tactical radio, reconnaissance radar, a FLIR payload, an S-mode transponder, and will be armed with a 12.7mm machine gun. The aircraft will be optimised with medical and rescue equipment and 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. 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,” commented Miles Barnett, senior test pilot at Leonardo Helicopters (UK).
The AW101 helicopter is already in service with a number of NATO countries, including Italy, the UK, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Portugal.