Polish Navy Introduces The New AW101 Merlin Helicopter

AW101 Polish Navy
An AW101 helicopter in the colors of the Polish Navy (Image credit: Author)

The new Leonardo AW101 helicopters will replace the Mi-14PŁ (ASW), and Mi-14PŁ/R (SAR) platforms in the Polish Naval Aviation.

On Dec. 8, 2023, the Polish Navy started the commissioning process of its new AW101 helicopters which marks the final stage of the type’s introduction in the BLMW unit (Polish Navy’s Aviation Brigade). Three out of 4 procured helicopters are already in Darłowo.

As Dziennik Zbrojny’s Mariusz Cielma reports, the fourth airframe is expected to be commissioned in early 2024. The event at the Darłowo base has seen the participation of the President of the Management Board at PZL Świdnik Jacek Libucha, commander of the Naval Aviation Brigade, cpt (N). Andrzej Szczotka, and commander of the 44th Naval Aviation Base, cpt (N) Paweł Smereka.

The Polish Navy has been waiting for a new helicopter for years. The relevant procurement deal was signed with Leonardo’s PZL-Świdnik facility back in 2019. The crews underwent language training in the UK, and pilots and navigators were trained at a facility in Yeovil, and at Stavanger in Norway, where Leonardo Helicopters’ CAE 3000 full mission simulator is based.

Four crews are to be trained, getting instructor ratings, and becoming able to train further personnel. Infrastructure at the Darłowo base also underwent modernization.

The AW101s for the Polish Navy will be working within three separate mission sets: ASW, SAR, and CSAR, with relevant equipment expected to be installed onboard. That equipment would include autopilot with SAR modes, datalink, tactical navigation system, and active and passive countermeasures. The sensors include search radar, an EO suite, an S-mode transponder, and Thales Flash Sonics sonar, plus passive and active sonobuoys. The helicopters are armed with .50-cal. machine guns. Extra equipment includes a searchlight, two winches, and a cargo hook. The Polish Navy’s Merlins also feature emergency floats, rafts, and cold temperature survival kits. CT-78E engines are used on the Polish variant.

As we reported, the agreement regarding four AW101s was signed on Apr. 26, 2019 – it was valued at PLN 1.65 bn (380 mln EUR). Back then. The deliveries are running a bit late since the first estimated delivery date was set in late 2022. The aircraft were manufactured at Yeovil, with some structures being also manufactured at PZL-Świdnik. The helicopters are yet to receive military registration.

The first Polish AW101 made its maiden flight in July 2021, and the domestic premiere took place in August this year. Notably, during the summer this year Polish MoD announced 22 AW101 helicopters would also be procured for the 25th Air Cavalry Brigade, as the heavy lift asset.

The AW101s will replace the Mi-14PŁ (ASW), and Mi-14PŁ/R (SAR) assets in the Polish Naval Aviation.

About Jacek Siminski
Standing contributor for TheAviationist. Aviation photojournalist. Co-Founder of DefensePhoto.com. Expert in linguistics, Cold War discourse, Cold War history and policy and media communications.