The first Polish AW101 is to be delivered early in the second half of this year - probably in July. The aircraft would be sent to PZL Świdnik where it would undergo a series of tests - including tests of the airframe, and the specialized equipment onboard.
In the autumn the aircraft should be handed off to the 44th Naval Aviation Base in Darłowo. Six hangars, with a storage and utility space, a maintenance support building, and a new ramp have already been created there. The building that would serve as a training facility is currently under construction.
Intense language training courses for the future AW101 crews were the first stage in the training sphere - these had begun in early 2021 and came to an end in mid-2022. Later, the time came for a specialist navigators course. The future AW101 pilots and navigators are currently residing in Yeovil, UK, where they receive practical flight training. The training includes type rating and some elements of combat use. A certain portion of the training also involves a full flight simulator facility in Norway.
The training cycle is scheduled to be completed during the third quarter of this year, and it is expected that four crews would be trained. Those crews, with instructor rating, will be allowed to train further crews, in Poland, Lt. Col. Busz announced.
The agreement with WSK "PZL-Świdnik" S.A. on the delivery of four heavy ASW/CSAR helicopters for the Polish Navy, along with comprehensive integrated logistics and training package was signed in April 2019. AW101 destined for the Royal Norwegian Air Force landed at the 43rd Naval Aviation Base in Gdynia Babie-Doły back in February 2019. It was conducting sorties tied to the verification of bid submitted in a procurement procedure conducted by the Armament Inspectorate of the Polish Ministry of Defence. On 6th December, Leonardo Helicopters announced that structural elements of the first AW101 helicopter for the Polish Navy were being manufactured and assembled at the PZL Świdnik facility. The first out of four AW101s procured for the Polish Navy's Aviation Brigade made its test flight at the British Leonardo facility in July last year. The Yeovil plant is dealing with the final assembly stage.
The commissioning of the AW101 in the Navy would translate into a decisive boost to the Navy's capabilities.
The AW101 is an entirely fresh addition when it comes to the net-centric nature of the battlespace. Modern communications and datalink systems, along with the capability to work with other platforms - also through the exchange of intel - create an entirely new operational dimension in naval aviation, when it comes to recce and electronic warfare, thus placing that branch in a new, operational realm, within the dynamic, convoluted naval battle environment, Lt. Col. Busz stated.
The AW101 helicopters were ordered in the spring of 2019, as a part of an urgent operational requirement, as a replacement for the Mi-14. The cost associated with that deal is defined as PLN 1.65 bn. - more than EUR 380 million. The agreement covers the acquisition of four helicopters, a training and logistics package, and medical equipment. The agreement also envisaged an offset deal, valued at PLN 400 million. Apart from that, many components of those helicopters have been manufactured at PZL Świdnik - the facility with which the agreement was signed. The facility is owned by Leonardo.
The original delivery schedule assumed that the helicopters would have been delivered in 2022. Unfortunately, for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the deliveries were delayed.
The new AW101s would probably become the heaviest of the Polish military rotary-winged aircraft. The manufacturer defines the MTOW for the type as 15.6 tonnes. The helicopter features 3 engines, while the 6.5 meters-long and 2.5 meters wide cabin can accommodate an impressive set of equipment or personnel - thus the aircraft can be used efficiently in ASW and SAR roles.