Norway’s AW101 rescue helicopters are among the world’s best – here’s why

AW101Photo: Carina Johansen / NTB

Sophisticated design, advanced technology, and cutting-edge features make AW101 one of the most powerful rescue helicopters in the world.

The AW101 rescue helicopters have been operational in Norway since the summer of 2020.

The manufacturer Leonardo from Italy, formerly AgustaWestland, boasted that the Norwegian version AW101-612 is “the world’s best rescue helicopter – by a good margin.”

Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg (H), Minister of Justice and Emergency Management Monica Mæland (H), and Minister of Defense Frank Bakke-Jensen (H) all participated in the launch ceremony in late August and hailed the copters’ arrival as a “milestone for the Norwegian rescue service.”

Norway Today has already reported that the currently used Sea Kings helicopter will be phased out gradually until the middle of 2023, after 47 years of service. The last helicopters of the model were purchased in 1996.

“The new rescue helicopters will have far better range, greater speed, and better ability to operate in bad weather than today’s Sea King helicopters.

“This means greater security for people at sea, along the coast, and in remote areas across the country. The Norwegian rescue service will, therefore, get a significant boost – both over sea and land,” the Ministry of Justice wrote in an email to news bureau NTB in late August.

Why is AW101 ‘best in the world’?

According to the manufacturer, 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, it provides operational persistence for all missions. This mission flexibility makes the AW101 the most advanced, versatile, and capable multi-role helicopter available today,” a press release from Leonardo notes.

“This aircraft, the latest version of the AW101, can claim to be the world’s most capable and advanced SAR helicopter in the world. The combination of the platform’s large cabin, exceptional performance, and all-weather capabilities along with the very latest advanced sensors and mission equipment give the aircraft unmatched capabilities,” Daniele Romiti, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters, believes.

The main features of AW101 rescue helicopters

Exceptional mission capability

According to the manufacturer, that exceptional performance and comprehensive self-protection measures enable the AW101 to operate worldwide in the most demanding areas.

The aircraft has the inherent flexibility required to provide tactical troop transport, utility support, medical and casualty evacuation, search and rescue (SAR), and personnel recovery missions.

Advanced technology

According to the manufacturer’s press release, the AW101 design “harnesses technologies from the forefront of an industry that is fully integrated throughout the avionics and mission suite to deliver exceptional situational awareness, rapid tactical assessment, and ultimate mission effectiveness.”

Inherent safety features

Extensive redundancy in structures, avionics, and critical systems, combined with a three-engine configuration and proven 30-minute run-dry transmission capability, ensures the highest standards of safety, according to the manufacturer.

Unique cabin flexibility

The AW101 provides users 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.

What is it made of?

The aircraft is equipped with an advanced SAR equipment package including Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s newly-launched Osprey AESA radar.

Based on a flat-panel antenna design, Osprey is the world’s first lightweight airborne surveillance radar to be built with no moving parts and will provide a 360-degree field of view for crews.

Other equipment includes a four-axis digital Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS), two rescue hoists, searchlight, electro-optical device, mobile telephone detection system, and a fully integrated avionics and mission system. 

The aircraft is equipped with advanced systems that enhance flight safety including a Laser Obstacle Avoidance System (LOAM) and Obstacle Proximity LIDAR System (OPLS) which provide warnings of wires and other obstacles. 

“The large cabin doors and rear ramp provide easy access for personnel, survivors, and equipment into the 27 m3 cabin which has stand-up head room throughout. The AW101 benefits from three-engine safety, a full ice protection system for flight in known icing conditions, long-range and endurance, a proven 30-minute ‘run-dry’ gearbox as well as multiple redundancy features in the avionic and mission systems,” the manufacturer notes in a press release.

Source: Norway Today


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