14-May-2021 Source: Leonardo
The AW101 multi-role medium-heavy three-engine helicopter’s global fleet has surpassed more than half a million flight hours. With one leading operator exceeding more than 7,500 hours on a single aircraft, nearly 200 units are in-service today by over 10 customers in over ten countries worldwide, with aircraft on order currently including units for Norway and Poland. The global reach of the platform extends from North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, to the Asia-Pacific region.
The Royal Navy will be using its AW101 Merlin Mk2 helicopters to keep watch over the upcoming carrier strike group deployment and the surrounding seas, ensuring the ships and their crews are well protected from enemy submarines, surface ships, aircraft, and missiles. The AW101 Merlin Mk4 will also provide movement and transportation of people and supplies, in addition to amphibious air manoeuvre for ship to shore operations, if required.
Other key operators of the platform, among others, include the Italian Air Force, the Royal Danish Air Force and Portuguese Air Force who utilise the aircraft primarily for SAR and/or Personnel Recovery missions. The Italian Navy has been flexibly using its AW101 fleet for a range of roles including all main missions in the naval environment. The Royal Canadian Air Force has been operating the CH-149 Cormorant variant since 2001, undertaking thousands of lifesaving SAR missions in the most extreme and harsh environmental conditions, from coast to coast.
The AW101’s avionics and mission suite integrates a fully integrated glass cockpit, four-axis Digital Avionics System, and a Health and Usage Monitoring System amongst other capabilities, which provide the crew with heightened situational awareness, mission effectiveness, and the ability to make rapid tactical assessments day or night.
Focused on survivability, the AW101’s design is driven by customer demands to operate autonomously in harsh weather and hostile locations. Extensive redundancy in avionics and critical systems, combined with the three-engine configuration and proven 30-minute run-dry transmission capability, ensures the highest standards of safety.
In April 2021, despite the challenges posed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Leonardo successfully delivered the 11th out of 16 AW101 All-Weather Search and Rescue (AWSAR) helicopters to the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security. The AWSAR platform has a wide-range of technologies supporting safer SAR missions, including all-weather ice protection, comprehensive automatic flight controls, integrated multi-sensor and cockpit display systems. The AW101 was the first helicopter in the world to be fitted with a global-first flat-panel airborne E-scan radar the Osprey, which is produced at the Company’s site in Edinburgh.
At the beginning of 2021, the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) hit a 25,000 flight hours’ milestone. Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) delivered the first AW101 aircraft to the JMSDF on 24 May 2006. In 2015, the first Airborne Mine Counter Measures equipped MCH-101 was delivered to the JMSDF. In total, Japan has 13 AW101s within its fleet – and this includes the CH-101 variant, which is used to support Japan’s Antarctic research activities. The development of the AMCM variant of the AW101/MCH-101 has been led by KHI, as prime contractor, with Leonardo continuing to provide technical support. The first aircraft entered operational service in 2016.
The AW101 provides customers with greater mission flexibility, thanks to a comprehensive range of equipment that enables the platform to be configured for swing role operations. The large sliding door and rear ramp ensure rapid personnel ingress/egress and equipment loading/unloading. The versatility of the AW101 platform permits customers to configure the helicopter for a wide range of primary and secondary roles. Designed with sophisticated avionics and mission systems, coupled with long range and endurance, thanks to the ability to use two out of three engines for cruise flights, it provides operational persistence for all missions. This mission flexibility makes the AW101 the most advanced, versatile and capable multi-role helicopter available today. The AW101 is built at Leonardo’s site in Yeovil, UK.