Tag Archives: AgustaWestland

First flight for Norwegian AW101

The first of 16 AgustaWestland AW101 helicopters for the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security (MoJ) successfully performed its maiden flight at the AgustaWestland Helicopter Division’s Yeovil factory in the UK on 21 March 2016.  This was announced by Finmeccanica on 23 March 2016.

The successful on-schedule maiden flight marks a major milestone and the start of the flight test programme that will lead to initial aircraft deliveries to the MoJ, for operation by the Royal Norwegian Air Force, in 2017. Aircraft deliveries will continue through to 2020.

“I am very pleased that Finmeccanica has reached this important milestone in the SAR helicopter project and thereby making good progress for the replacement of the aging Sea King helicopter with the new state-of-the-art AW101 by 2020,” says the Minister of Justice and Public Security, Mr. Anders Anundsen.

The first Norwegian AW101 during its maiden flight on 21 March from Yeovil airfield (Image © Finmeccanica)
The first Norwegian AW101 during its maiden flight on 21 March from Yeovil airfield (Image © Finmeccanica)

As we reported earlier, the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security signed a contract for 16 AW101 helicopters plus support and training, back in december 2013, to meet the Norwegian All Weather SAR Helicopter (NAWSARH) requirement based on a new generation aircraft. Each aircraft is provided with an advanced SAR equipment package including a multi-panel AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) surveillance radar system, that provides 360° coverage. The large cabin doors and rear ramp provide easy access for personnel, survivors and equipment into the 27 m3 cabin which has stand-up head room throughout.

Finmeccanica’s Helicopter Division will provide initial support and training services, including spares at each of the aircraft operating bases and aircrew training. It will then provide performance based logistic support to deliver approximately 90,000 flying hours across the fleet of 16 helicopters over the initial 15 year period of operation. In support of pilot training, a full flight simulator will be available in Norway in advance of the delivery of the first aircraft.

The AW101 is in service with several air forces. For example, the Danish Air Force already send their AW101 (EH101) for operations in Afghanistan. In 2015, Japan got its first anti-mine AW101 (MCH-101) delivered, produced by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, while the Italian Air Force recently introduced its first CSAR AW101 (HH-101A) into service.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Dennis Spronk
Featured image: The first Norwegian AW101 during its maiden flight on 21 March from Yeovil airfield (Image © Finmeccanica)

Eastern Europe explores military helo options

UPDATED 27 January | Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic all are on the verge of replacing their fleets of Mil Mi-8/17 transport helicopters as well as Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters. Although each country seems to be heading down a different path, Bell Helicopter offers potentials for a joint program.

Update: according to Poland’s deputy defense minister on 26 January, a deal for Caracal helicopters now looks ‘very unlikely’.

In Poland, a multirole rotorcraft tender was won last year by Airbus Helicopters’ H225 Caracal, but after a change of government negotiations regarding offset investments are still ongoing. A spokesperson at Airbus Helicopters on Friday stated that ‘things seems to be moving in the right direction again’.

In the neighbouring Czech Republic, the air force flies 16 quite modern transport Mil Mi-171Sh helos, acquired from Russia in 2005 and recently upgraded with new communication, navigation and electrooptical equipment. The Czechs expect their Mi-171s to be used for at least one more decade, after which new helos will take their place as well as the place of current Mi-24 attack choppers. The new helicopters must be able to carry six to eight soldiers and be fitted out with guns plus guided and unguided rockets.

The Mi-17 Hip has a long heritage. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)
The Mi-17 Hip has a long heritage. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)

Czech offers

Previous plans of buying 12 machines are now revised in favour of a larger batch of 30-35 helicopters, due to better funding available in short term. Last year Czech MoD issued an request for information (RFI) to manufacturers of medium multirole helicopters; all Western producers responded with offers. Italian AgustaWestland offered the AW139, while Bell Helicopters is offering a tandem of its UH-1Y Venom and AH-1Z Viper used by the United States Marines Corps (USMC). Airbus Helicopters will most probably offer the Caracal just like it did in Poland, or the nine ton AS532ALe Cougar.

A preselection of preferred candidates is expected during the first half of 2016, with first deliveries planned a year or two later. Taking into account the strong presence of Bell Helicopters on the Czech civil rotorcraft market and police aviation using five Bell 412 helicopters, the UH-1Y is seen as strong contender. Bell in its offer underscores the possibility of establishing a joint Czech-Polish maintenance and training center if Poland also selects the Viper as a future attack chopper.

A US Marines UH-1Y Venom in action (Image © Bell Helicopter)
Also on offer: the UH-1Y. (Image © Bell Helicopter)
The AH-1Z Viper (Image © Bell Helicopter)
The AH-1Z Viper (Image © Bell Helicopter)
On offer: the Agusta Westland AW139. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)
On offer: the Agusta Westland AW139. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)


As for industrial offset, there’s rather small chance of licence production of selected type in Czech Republic, but some overhaul capabilities may be handed over to Czech industry. AgustaWestland has already signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with LOM Praha for maintenance support, provided AW139 is selected.


There’s no official news about a Sikorsky offer to the Czech yet, but it may be either S-70i, or UH-60M. Next door to the Czech Republic, Slovakia decided to acquire nine Sikorsky UH-60M Black Hawks through US FMS program. Four out of nine are to be delivered before May 2017.

In the meantime, there is already one Bell AH-1 in Czech Republic – albeit an unarmed TAH-1P. The chopper is owned by Heliczech company, and can be seen at the airshows in country quite often.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com contributor Paweł Bondaryk
Featured image: A Czech Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter strikes a pose. (Image © Paweł Bondaryk)

Up close with a Airbus Helicopters H225M Caracal. (Image © Anthony Pecchi)
Up close with a Airbus Helicopters H225M Caracal. (Image © Anthony Pecchi)

Royal Air Force Sea Kings end SAR duties

The Royal Air Force (RAF) ceased Search and Rescue (SAR) operations with its well known yellow Sea King helicopters this weekend, ending an impressive 74 years of continuous life-saving operations by RAF crews. The last operational mission was flown on 4 October by a crew at Chivenor airfield, transporting a 38 year old male to hospital. Shortly afterwards, the RAF crew and helicoopter were relieved of their duty. Bristow Helicopters has taken over the SAR responsibility.

Official statistic show that since 1983 and using mainly Sea King choppers, RAF crews of six SAR-units throughout the UK completed 34,025 callouts and rescued 26,853 persons in distress. Each unit maintained a 15-minutes readiness state during daylight hours and a 45-minutes readiness state during night time.

The Bristow Group in 2013 won a 10-year and 1.6 billion GBP contract to provide SAR coverage, starting this year. It will no longer be Yellow Sea Kings, but red and white Sikorsky S-92s and AgustaWestlands 189s saving lives in the UK.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: Yellow and always there when needed: a SAR Sea King. (Image © UK Ministry of Defence)

Bye bye Battlefield Lynx

The Westland Battlefield Lynx Mk7 is no more. The British Army Air Corps said goodbye to the type on 31 July 2015, with a flypast of six Mk7 performing the so-called backflip that is typical for the type.

The Lynx has served the UK for 38 years, being part of major military operations and supporting humanitarian missions. In 2018 the newer Lynx Mk9 is to retire, with all Lynx’s to be replaced by its successor: the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat, dubbed AH1 in Army Air Corps service.

Six Lynx AH7 helicopters form a '7' in the sky. (image © Chris Globe)
Six Lynx Mk7 helicopters form a ‘7’ in the sky. (image © Chris Globe)

The Wildcat is a further development of the Lynx, desinged not only for the ground support role, but for utility and maritime tasks as well. The Republic of Korea Navy has ordered eight of the ASW version, while the United Kingdom ordered 34 Wildcats for the Army Air Corps and 28 for the Fleet Air Arm.

The Wildcat AH1 is able to accommodate 7 passengers, including a door gunner, plus a crew of 2. It has a maximum speed of 157 knots (181 mph / 291 km/h) and a range of 420 nautical miles (777 km). When equipped with auxiliary fuel tanks it can remain airborne for 4.5 hours. Its standard armament includes forward firing machine guns and rockets, a pintle-mounted machine gun in the door plus up to 20 Thales Martlet missiles. The naval HMA2 version can carry up to 4 MBDA Sea Venom anti-surface weapon as well as torpedoes and depth charges.

The AW159 Wildcat in Army Air Corps configuration (Image © AgustaWestland)
The AW159 Wildcat in Army Air Corps configuration (Image © AgustaWestland)

Since August 2014 Wildcat AH1s fly already with 652 Squadron of the Army Air Corps. The Royal Navy’s Wildcat HMA2 went on its first operational cruise onboard Type 23 frigate F229 HMS Lancaster in March 2015, with the Fleet Air Arm flying the HMA2 version with 825 Naval Air Squadron and the AH1 attack version in support of the Royal Marines with 847 NAS.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger, including source information provided by the UK Ministry of Defence
Featured image: Westland Lynx AH7 during a display at the Red Bull Air Race London 2007 (Image (CC) Tony Hisgett)

Canadian Cyclones accepted

Canada accepted the first six Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopters on Friday 18 June. The helicopters arrived at Shearwater airbase just outside Halifax. In the end, 28 Cyclones replace the CH-124 Sea King helicopters that fulfilled Canadian SAR duties for five decades.

Replacement of the trusty Sea King has been a headache for years in Canada. The AgustaWestland EH101 was meant to replace the old helo, but that contract was cancelled after a change of government. It resulted in a new contract for Sikorsky for 28 CH-148 Cyclones.

The new chopper is however not without problems. The Cyclone proved underpowered at first and unable of running its gearbox for 30 minutes without oil, a requirement set by Canada. The order was almost cancelled, but subsequent trials have set Canada at ease. Sikorsky and the Canadian Armed Forces conducted sea trials with the CH-148 Cyclone on HMCS Halifax between December 2014 and May 2015. The Cyclone conducted 67 sorties, including 322 landings and takeoffs from the frigate.

Before the end of the year, two more Cyclones will be delivered and the first two Sea Kings retired. The year 2018 should see the final end for the Sea King.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): A CH-148 Cyclone (Image © RCAF/Sikorsky)