Tag Archives: AW139

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)

Purchase maritime rescue choppers Sweden was “pre-fixed”

The purchase of seven AgustaWestland AW139 maritime rescue choppers for 87 million euro by the Swedish Maritime Authority (Sjöfartsverket) in 2012 was “pre-fixed”, according to investigative journalists of Swedish national television’s Uppdrag Granskning. The program is well known in Sweden of bringing injustice and irregularities in the spotlight. Sjöfartsverket denies any wrongdoing.

According to the program makers the requirements for the new rescue helicopter in the bidding process were detailed in such a way that only the AW139 could meet them, while Sjöfartsverket already signed a preliminary deal with the Italian-Anglo helicopter manufacturer. Uppdrag Granskning’s journalists accuse the Swedish authorities of the pre-fix during three different bidding phases. They also question why the details of the helicopter type were so strict that only the AW139 could meet them, while many countries – including the one’s in northern Scandinavia – use several types of helicopters in a rescue role.

Stand-by alert
The first pair of seven AW139s were delivered in September 2013. The choppers – part of the 100 personnel strong Helicopter Unit of the Swedish Maritime Authority – operate from Umeå, Ronneby, Norrtälje, Göteborg and Visby. In the latter the AW139 replaces the final Sikorsky S76 in Spring 2015.

The AW139s are on stand-by alert of 15 minutes, 365 days a year, with the each crew being on duty for a full week in a row. Each year Sjöfartsverket’s helicopters fly about 400 to 500 missions, mostly by the flights based in Göteborg and Norrtälje.

Better safety
Compared to the S76s the new AW139s provide better safety and feature an autopilot / GPS-based autohover. They fly at speeds up to 167 knots, have a better range (485 nautical miles or 900 km) and can carry a bigger load of about 4400 lbs (2000 kg). Standard are two inflatable life rafts with room for twice 17 people and night vision equipment for the 2 pilots, as well as the winch operator and the diver. Normally the AW139s can carry 5 passengers, but up to 9 people is possible.

The choppers are equipped with a terrain warning systems, a collision warning systems, a ship transponder system, and satcom for telephone, e-mail and real-time data traffic. Four movable floodlights, a track light, a search radar and five videocams with recording function are part of the standard configuration.

According to a statement of Sjöfartsverket “no law has been broken” in the purchase of the new helicopter. “There have been substantial flaws in the facts presented by the TV program Uppdrag Granskning. We’ve even had independent experts look at the choice of helicopter, and their conclusions have proven to us that we have acted properly and in accordance to the rules,” writes the Swedish Maritime Authority in a reaction.

© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger. This story includes technical information provided by Sjöfartsverket
Featured image: The AW139 rescue helicopter of the Swedish Maritime Authority (Image © Sjöfartsverket)

Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard takes shape

We say a big cheers to Trinidad and Tobago. The country’s first ever search-and-rescue unit has taken proper shape. The first two pilots on the AgustaWestland AW139 were promoted to Commanding Officers, a milestone in the maturing of the Air Guard of the small island nation, situated off the coast of Venezuela.

The Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard flies four multi-mission AW139s, serviced by five engineers of the Civil Aviation Authority of the country. The commanding officer promotion ceremony took place at the Ulrich Cross Air Station

As of November 2014, the Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard has flown over 5,000 hours and has been instrumental in aiding in security during high-profile events, including Carnival, and conducted operational sorties to include day/night SAR missions (onshore and offshore), patrol and surveillance, firefighting, troop transportation and fast roping, life-saving medevac rescues, VIP transportation, disaster relief, and deck landings.

Following the establishment of the Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard in 2005, and the subsequent deliveries of AW139s in 2011, a consortium led by AgustaWestland was established to manage the program in Trinidad and Tobago with training services to be supplied in Italy, the UK and the USA.

Source: AgustaWestland

A pair of AW139s of the Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard (Image © AgustaWestland)
A pair of AW139s of the Trinidad and Tobago Air Guard (Image © AgustaWestland)