PZL Świdnik Agusta Westland EH-101 / AW.101. 2018 - History

Published on: 2018-06-02
Updated on: 2019-05-08
Category: Helicopters
History Construction Tally

Kraków 2018-06-02

327a Section 2018

PZL Świdnik Agusta Westland EH-101 / AW.101


History AW.101

EH-101. 1988. Photo LAC
EH-101. 1988. Photo LAC

EH.101, AW.101. 2018. Photo Karol Placha Hetman
EH.101, AW.101. 2018. Photo Karol Placha Hetman

EH.101, AW.101. 2018. Photo Karol Placha Hetman
EH.101, AW.101. 2018. Photo Karol Placha Hetman

EH.101, AW.101. 2018. Photo Karol Placha Hetman
EH.101, AW.101. 2018. Photo Karol Placha Hetman

EH.101, AW.101. 2018. Photo Karol Placha Hetman
EH.101, AW.101. 2018. Photo Karol Placha Hetman

Agusta helicopters

The Italian Agusta plant was founded in 1907. At that time, the Italian constructor Giovanni Agusta founded a company that manufactured aircraft of its own design. The Great World War interrupted the company's operations. In 1923, the company resumed aircraft production. The company then adopted the new name Costruzioni Aeronautiche Agusta S.p.a. The plant then housed in Samarate in Lombardy in the north of Italy.

The most ambitious project of the company was Agusta A8, a four-engine aircraft. The plane was designed to carry 26 passengers. It made his first flight on June 9, 1958. It's similar to the Douglas DC-4 aircraft. The plant has not received a single order.

However, as early as in 1952, Agusta acquired the license of the Bell 47 helicopter. This decision influenced the change of the production profile. The cooperation of the Agusta and Bell companies in many studies and programs is conducted to the present.

Agusta helicopters have traditionally been marked with the letter "A" and a three-digit number. The first was the A.101 helicopter, which can take 35 passengers on board. The company has also been involved in the production of turbine drives for its products. In 1961, Agusta purchased a license for another Bella product, the Bell UH-1 Huey helicopter. In 1967, a license for the production of Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King helicopters, produced in several versions, appeared, and also in 1967 a license for Boeing CH-47 was purchased.

In 1971, the company built the most recognizable own helicopter designated A.109. In 1983, the first flight assault helicopter marked Agusta A.129 Mangusta. In 1983, the Agusta factory bought the Italian aircraft manufacturer SIAI-Marchetti.

From the beginning of the 80-year period Augusta's cooperation with the British company Westland Helicopters dates from. The first joint project was the AgustaWestland helicopter AW.101, which replaced the Sea King helicopter. Cooperation with other companies in Western Europe was also undertaken.

In 1992, all these companies established a consortium of NHIndustries, in which Agusta had its shares. The effect of the work was NH1 NH90 helicopter. In 1998, the company together with Bell Helicopter Textron established a joint venture known as Bell / Agusta Aerospace Company. The product of this cooperation is a vertical takeoff and landing plane (VTOL), Bell / Agusta BA609, predecessor V-22. In 2001, Agusta and British Westland Helicopters merged and a new AgustaWestland company was established, which has about 20% of the global helicopter market. To date, about 20 types of helicopters have been created to perform various tasks.

Polish participation in the Agusta Company

In 1996, WSK PZL Świdnik entered into a contract with Agusta for the production of structural elements of Agusta A.109 helicopters in Świdnik (currently AgustaWestland AW.109). In Świdnik, the production of helicopter fuselages and tailpieces began. In 2006, a five hundred fuselage A.109 was delivered from Świdnik. In 2001, the cooperation was extended to the fuselage production for the Agusta A.119 Koala (currently AgustaWestland AW.119). Świdnik had a large share in the design and production of AgustaWestland AW.139. Since 2012, complete fuselages for the AW.139 model have been created in Świdnik.

The AW.149 helicopter is one of the most modern helicopters in the world. According to the information from May 2015, the company planned to build 350 copies over the next 20 years, which could generate revenues for PZL Świdnik in the amount of over PLN 50 billion.

In Poland, the EC725 Caracal helicopter of the Airbus Helicopters group was selected. However, the choice was annulled because the new Government of the Republic assessed that Airbus did not give a good offset. In this situation, the topic of buying new helicopters for the Polish Army has returned.


AW.101 is an average size helicopter with a maximum take-off weight of up to 15 600 kg, equipped with a rear ramp. The helicopter is built in the classic Sikorsky system. A drive system in a helicopter is composed of three turbine engines. AW.101 has been used not only in the army, but also in civilian tasks. It was purchased by several European countries (Italy, UK, Norway), as well as by the USA, Canada and Japan.

At the end of the 70s of the XX century, the navies of Italy and Great Britain began searching for a new machine that could replace Westland Sea King helicopters. Westland Sea King is a far-reaching modification of the Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King helicopter, which made its first flight in 1969. A natural consequence was the combination of cooperation between Agusta and Westland.

In 1980, the British company Westland and the Italian Agusta founded the company European Helicopters Industrie Ltd with branches in Yeovil (UK) and Milan (Italy). They undertook work on a helicopter that was to meet the requirements of both armies. The main users were to be NAVY troops. The program of construction of this helicopter was then the most ambitious, the most advanced and the most expensive one at the same time. The new helicopter was to strengthen the position of both countries in the construction of helicopters. The first flight is scheduled for 1987. The next two years are flight tests in the amount of 5000 hours. Mass production began in 1989. It was planned to sell 1,000 helicopters.

Three motors are provided as the drive. General Electric CT-7-2A engines with a capacity of 1 289 kW each were selected for prototypes. For series helicopters, Rolls-Royce / Turbomeca RTM322 engines are provided.

On June 12, 1981, the Government of the United Kingdom confirmed its participation in the project, allocating an initial budget of GBP 20 million to the development of nine pre-series machines. The main agreement, which provided funding for the EH.101 program, was signed by the British and Italian government in 1984. This is how EH Industries Limited (EHI) was founded. The result of this joint venture was the EH.101 helicopter program. During the air show in Paris in 1985, the Agusta Company showed a model of a new helicopter. It was a very general model, because from the very beginning the helicopter was to be made for a specific client's order, i.e. it was to be a platform adapted to many tasks.

The first prototype made the first flight on October 9, 1987. The first serial helicopter was delivered in May 1997 and the recipient was RAF.

In 1987, a large interest in the EH.101 helicopter (at present AW.101) was expressed by Canada, which intended to use the helicopter mainly over the North Atlantic and Pacific, that is in very difficult conditions. Canadians really liked the third engine and the large autonomy of the helicopter in action. In addition, the helicopter was to have a very large range and de-icing systems. However, there were sharp political disputes in Canada. Mainly due to the very large costs of obtaining machines at the moment when the Cold War has come to an end. The contract already signed was canceled and Canada had to pay a fine of USD 470 million. However, after a few years, Canada bought AW.101 helicopters.

The 9 prototypes were built. On January 21, 1993, there was the disaster of the second prototype. As a result, flight tests were halted for six months.

In February 1995, after fourteen years of program operation, the UK finally placed an order for 22 EH.101 machines. A moment later, Italy did so, ordering 16 EH.101 machines. Both contracts were protested. Opponents argued that you can buy no worse machines for much less money.

Due to the consolidation of Agusta and Westland, the helicopter designation was changed from EH.101 to AW.101. In the UK, the helicopter also received its own name Merlin.

In 2001, a transport version of the AW.101 helicopter with rear loading ramp was created, which in a step-by-step manner increased the universality of the helicopter.

The helicopter proved to be reliable and gained the recognition of many recipients. AW.101 is very popular and was made in a wide range of versions. Perfectly works on the seas, especially on the difficult North Sea. Therefore, one of the basic versions is the version of maritime rescue. The AW.101 helicopter is also suitable for fighting submarines.

AW.101 due to the large cabin, which is 6.50 m long, 2.30 m wide and 1.91 m high, the helicopter can be used for both submarine anti-submarine (ZOP) and SAR and CSAR missions. The machine also has a 1.8 m wide door on the starboard side and a smaller door in the left side.

The ZOP version in the UK does not have a rear loading ramp, because this part of the cabin is occupied by the lowered sonar, two acoustic buoys and racks with additional charges to them. The AW.101 helicopter during standard operations ZOP has on board the basic equipment for rescue missions, so that he can take a rescuer from the water at any time and provide him with basic help. A dozen or so survivors can be taken on board, or 6 stretchers with injured on special mountings. After complete disassembly of the ZOP equipment, which lasts several hours, it is possible to obtain space for example for 9 stretchers, a dozen or so castaways in a sitting position and rescue equipment. In the anti-submarine configuration, the British Helicopter AW.101 Merlin takes several dozen sonar buoys used in two revolver launchers and sonar dropped into the water. Permanent equipment is a radiolocation station and an optoelectronic head.

When it comes to weapons, the Royal Navy helicopter AW.101 Merlin HM2 can carry up to 4 Sting Ray torpedoes, Mk.11 Mod.3 submarines or Sea Eagle rockets for surface targets. The Italian navy decided in turn to integrate the machine with Marte Mk 2 / S anti-ship missiles. The helicopter can also be equipped with machine guns cal. 12.7 mm and 7.62 mm.

Since the machine has three Rolls-Royce / Turbomeca RTM322 or General Electric CT7 engines, a helicopter with a maximum take-off weight of 15,600 kg can reach a maximum range of 1,363 km, and can be further increased by installing additional fuel tanks.

In 2005, AgustaWestland and Lockheed Martin were selected winners of the VXX contest for a US Marine Corps helicopter. The variant AW.101, designated as Kestrel VH-71, has been proposed. However, in 2009 the program was canceled due to the importance of exceeding the program costs and protests of domestic producers.

By 2010, more than 180 AW.101 models were sold worldwide, and 220 machines by 2017, and 225 machines by 2019. In total, the AW.101 fleet completed 200,000 flight hours. AW.101 helicopters were bought by: Algeria, Azerbaijan, Denmark, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, Norway, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, and UK. By 2018, AW.101 helicopters participated in 11 accidents and disasters.

Interest in the Polish Army

In 2018, the companies that produce helicopters in Poland: Świdnik and Mielec had a chance to sell Polish helicopters.

The Polish Army was and is interested in three helicopters of the AgustaWestland / Leonardo Helicopters group. One of them is larger AW.101, the second is smaller AW-149, and the third is the native W-3PL Gluszec.

AW.101 for Poland

If Poland decided to buy 16 machines (8 pieces for sea and Special Forces), it would be possible to start production in Świdnik. AW.101 is a multipurpose helicopter with excellent performance enabling the implementation of the most difficult CSAR, SAR and anti-submarine and surface submarine missions. Nobody has questioned these statements until now.

After the resignation of Caracal helicopters, in February 2017 the Ministry of National Defense announced a tender for the purchase of 16 helicopters for the Polish Armed Forces.

In March 2017, Italian AW101 arrived unexpectedly to Poland with a demonstration mission. When he landed at Balice Airport, everyone was surprised. The helicopter was demonstrated in Świdnik and in Warsaw. Later, the helicopter was shown at the Fair in Kielce, in the HH-101A Caesar version. HH-101A Caesar is a multi-purpose helicopter designed to meet the demanding missions of Special Forces and the Navy, including search and rescue tasks and the fight against underwater and surface threats at sea.

Possible win by PZL-Świdnik is a huge opportunity for the plant. From December 2009, components of the AW.101 hull structure were made in Świdnik. What's more, Leonardo continues to offer Polish Army helicopters AW.149 and W-3 Sokół (W-3PL Głuszec). During 21 years of fruitful partnership, the production of the hulls of the AW.119, AW.109 Power, AW.109 LUH, Grand, and AW.139 models was implemented in Świdnik. The cabin of the latter model was designed by Świdnica constructors. It was the first case of the participation of engineers with PZL-Świdnik in the program of building a new helicopter operated by a Western European company. The Świdnica plant currently produces around 170 helicopter fuselages from AgustaWestland annually. The value of supplies in 2008 exceeded PLN 150 million and constituted 35% of the total sales of the factory.

Currently (2018) helicopter AW.101 is manufactured in Great Britain at Yeovil in plants belonging to the Leonardo Group.

It is estimated that the AW.101 helicopter is the perfect solution for the Polish Army. One problem may be the purchase price, as well as the cost of use due to the drive system used, consisting of three engines. But other doubts are also born: In Afghanistan, a Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter with 30 Special Forces soldiers crashed. This was a big tragedy. Do not use smaller helicopters for this, so that the possible losses are smaller?

In 2018, the Armament Inspectorate revealed the decision to separate helicopter acquisition programs for the Special Forces and for the Navy separately. By the end of 2018, it was decided that four Hawk helicopters would be purchased for the Special Forces. For the Navy, four helicopters AW.101 were selected for helicopters.

In February 2018, the AW.101 helicopter went through verification tests in Poland. The tests were carried out from the Babie Doły airport using the AW.101 helicopter manufactured for Norway, which at that time belonged to the manufacturer.

Proceedings for the purchase of ZOP / CSAR helicopters for the Navy were conducted by the Armament Inspectorate from October 2016 as part of an urgent operational need. The negotiation procedure was in accordance with Decision No. 367 / MON of the Minister of the Ministry of National Defense of September 14, 2015, regarding the rules and procedure for granting orders in the Ministry of National Defense of basic importance for the security of the state. In March 2017, offers were submitted by two manufacturers: Airbus Helicopters SAS together with Heli Invest Sp. O. O. Services Sp. K. A. with the Caracal helicopter and Wytwórnia Sprzętu Komunikacyjnego PZL-Świdnik S.A. offering an AW.101 helicopter. The final bid, in the deadline set until 30 November 2018, was submitted only by the company from Świdnik. The Airbus Helicopters group decided to withdraw from the proceedings because in his opinion the offset requirements defined by the Ministry of Defense for this purchase, with the assumed number of helicopters, made it impossible to submit a competitive offer.

It is worth giving information about the previous competition (for the Governments of the Civic Platform and the Polish People's Party), in which the Caracal helicopter was selected. In that competition, Świdnik could not offer the AW.101 helicopter, because it was "too heavy" in relation to WTT. That is why AW.149 was offered, which was practically just being created.


On April 5, 2019, an offset contract worth PLN 400 million was signed, which is a condition of concluding the main contract. According to the communiqué, the Ministry of Defense includes a total of 9 offset commitments from 3 areas (A, B and C), valued at PLN 395.9 million. The main offset recipient is Wojskowe Zakłady Lotnicze No. 1 S.A. in Łódź, while the Maritime Technology Center of the Gdańsk University of Technology appears as an additional offset recipient in four offset commitments. In WZL No. 1 a support center for helicopter operation should be established, where rotorcraft inspections and repairs will be carried out. This is very important for the existence of WZL No. 1, because after the withdrawal of Soviet equipment from the Polish Army, the plant would be liquidated.

The contract for obtaining 4 helicopters AW.101

On April 26, 2019 in Świdnik, a contract for the purchase of four helicopters, AW.101, for the Navy of the Republic of Poland was signed at the Leonardo aviation plant. The contract value is PLN 1.65 billion gross. Helicopters will be used to fight submarines (ZOP tasks) and to conduct search and rescue operations in combat conditions (CSAR tasks). The machines will be completely equipped and armed. Helicopters are to be delivered by the end of 2022. In addition to helicopters, a training and logistics package as well as medical equipment will be provided. The purchased logistic package includes a stock of spare and operating parts as well as technical equipment for servicing helicopters. The training package includes comprehensive training of pilots and technical personnel.

The party to the contract is Wytwórnia Sprzętu Komunikacyjnego PZL-Świdnik S.A. It is this company that is responsible for the implementation of the contract.

The ceremony of signing the contract was attended by: Prime Minister Rzeczpospolita Mateusz Morawiecki, head of the Ministry of Defense Mariusz Błaszczak, president of the group Leonardo Alessandro Profumo, managing director Leonardo Gian Piero Cutillo.

-"The purchase of AW.101 helicopters is a very important moment for Poland, they will significantly strengthen our armed forces and will be a very important element of our security architecture," - said Mateusz Morawiecki in Świdnik. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki expressed his satisfaction that the plant in Świdnica should participate in production. - "It is extremely important that a significant part of production, but also a logistics package, training package, technical package, offset package, will serve the Polish economy." - he said. The Prime Minister added - "Helicopter production is our Polish tradition, which we will not leave, and we leave the hole we were in." He assessed that the prospects for helicopter production in Poland are getting better ", he expressed hope for further production and modernization of manufactured in Świdnik helicopters Sokół. Later, on the social portal Twitter Premier added that the next objective of the department will be the purchase of shock helicopters.

AW.101 helicopters will be built at the plants in the UK in Yeovil, which belong to the Leonardo group. Representatives of the Leonardo group announced that parts of AW.101 will be built in Świdnik. Hydraulic systems and electric harnesses will be manufactured in Świdnik. The Italians confirmed that their presence in Poland is important to them, and the plant in Świdnik is strategic. The Leonardo Group has announced the establishment of a new company in Poland, which will be responsible for the presentation and promotion of the group's products and support for their operation.

The Ministry of National Defense, in the communication released, did not disclose details of the equipment ordered, which is decisive for the ability to perform the tasks of ZOP and CSAR. This was because the hysterical opposition from 2016 only criticized the conduct of the Ministry of National Defense and did not want to engage in a constructive discussion about the future training of the Polish Army, as they themselves were liquidated by the Polish Armed Forces for 8 years.

In 2019, the Polish Naval Aviation Brigade was in stock: 8 Mi-14 PŁ, 4 Kaman SH-2 G, 2 Mi-14 PŁ / R, PZL Sokół, PZL Mi-2. In the coming years, all Mi-14 and SH-2 G should be withdrawn from service. That is 14 helicopters. Undoubtedly, the weakest point of the contract is the number of helicopters - just 4 pieces. This may make it more difficult to negotiate the price for future helicopters in the future. Maybe it does not have to. Because we should remember that Special Forces are waiting for Black Hawk helicopters. Therefore, the Ministry of Defense is not associated with one producer. Perhaps the Ministry of National Defense wants to assess whether the combination of ZOP and CSAR tasks under Polish conditions will prove correct.

At the end

Poland went towards a very good AW.101 helicopter, which should meet the Navy's expectations. The topic would look different when Poland went towards the AW.149 platform. This helicopter would be created in Poland, with the participation of Polish constructors and could better meet our requirements in many tasks. The AW.149 helicopter is one of the most modern helicopters in the world. According to the information from May 2015, the company planned to build 350 copies over the next 20 years, which could generate revenues for PZL Świdnik in the amount of over PLN 50 billion. Remember that the Polish Army was interested in three helicopters of the AgustaWestland / Leonardo Helicopters group. One of them is larger AW.101, the second is smaller AW-149, and the third is the native W-3PL Gluszec. But AW.149 is a different class than AW.101.

Written by Karol Placha Hetman