Poland has taken delivery of two AW149 helicopters for its land forces on 30 October, welcoming the military rotorcraft design that is also in the running to fill the UK new medium Helicopter requirement.
The UK Ministry of Defence indicated it would invest in a new medium-lift helicopter to replace helicopters including the Puma HC2 and 412 Griffin, with the publishing of its ‘Defence in a Competitive Age’ command paper in March 2021, and went on to publish a contract notice in May the following year. Leonardo proffered the AW149, and faces competition from Airbus Helicopters’ H157M, Boeing’s MH-139 Grey Wolf, Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky S-70 Black Hawk.
Upon the induction of the AW149 into service in Poland, Leonardo Helicopters’ MD, Gian Piero Cutillo, has remarked that the AW149 represents “a quantum leap forward” in contemporary militaries’ capacity to conduct “true multirole missions and growth,” as well as in their ability to manage their fleets efficiently and respond quickly to emergencies.
The delivery to Poland was completed 15 months after the contracts were signed on 1 July 2022. Production was completed domestically, under PZL-Świdnik, a long-standing local industrial partner of the Polish Armed Services that is fully owned by Leonardo.
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A multirole helicopter for military and paramilitary use, the AW149 is a 7t to 8t class aircraft. At maximum all-up weight, the helicopter can reach a hover altitude ceiling of over 6,000 feet and a maximum cruising speed of 278km/h with a range of more than 920km. The aircraft’s robust retractable wheeled landing gear enables it to fly in rugged terrain and perform ground taxi duties.
The AW149 can carry 18 personnel or 12 fully equipped soldiers in the combat support role. The external cargo hook with a 2,720kg rating makes it possible to move bulky equipment to and from the battlefield.
The aircraft may be outfitted for additional functions including command and control and medical evacuation. The cabin can hold up to six stretchers, four attendants, and in-flight medical supplies when used for medical evacuation. Alternatively the AB149 can be outfitted with two workstations and a suite of command, control, and communications (C3) equipment for use in command and control missions.