AgustaWestland AW-101 is considered the most powerful, modern and most expensive medium-lift helicopter in the world today.
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AgustaWestland AW-101 helicopter, also known as EH-101 or simply Merlin, is considered to be the most powerful, modern and most expensive medium-lift helicopter in the world today, price up to 21 million USD per unit. AW101 is chosen by military forces in many countries around the world, designed for both military and civilian purposes. Advanced technology standards and high safety make this helicopter a popular choice in the military and government sectors, but still meets the needs of individual ownership.
The life of AgustaWestland AW-101 began in the 1970s of the last century, when the whole world was engrossed in the arms race of the Cold War. As an important member of NATO, the British and Italian Navy were now seeking a more modern anti-submarine warfare option to replace their aging Sikorsky H-3 Sea King platforms, to counter deal with advances in Soviet submarine technology. Agusta and Westland have worked together to develop the EH101 project and set up a new company under common ownership.
In 1985, a mock-up helicopter was first introduced at the 1985 Paris Air Show. The new helicopter was designed to be flexible, which could be customized to meet the needs of various civilian or military customers. The EH-101 Merlin first took off in 1987 and was officially put into use by European countries in 1999. In 2000, Westland and Agusta merged to form AgustaWestland, resulting in its current name of the helicopter.
The US Air Force has also developed a special type of Marine One helicopter specifically for carrying the president called VH-71 Kestrel. Unfortunately, this program was canceled in 2009 due to financial issues. The VH-71 Kestrel is a modified version of the AW-101 Merlin helicopter.
AgustaWestland AW101 helicopter has a crew of 3 to 4 people depending on the mission and version, it is capable of carrying up to 24 seated or 45 standing combat troops and their equipment or a maximum cargo capacity of 3 tons (inside the aircraft) or 5 tons (hanging outside the plane).
AgustaWestland AW-101 has a five-blade rotor with a total surface area of 271.51 square meters combined with three Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322-01 engines, producing an output of 2100 horsepower each.
The helicopter can reach a maximum speed of 309 km/h, a cruise speed of 278 km/h, an operating range of 833 km and a service ceiling of 4500m.
The AW101 is designed for operating in extreme weather conditions; it is fitted with a de-icing system and rated to operate in temperatures ranging between −45 and +50 degrees Celsius. The aircraft’s control systems allow the AW101 to maintain a stable hover in 74 km/h crosswinds. An active vibration control system, known as the active control of structural response system, reduces airframe vibration by up to 80% which increases crew comfort and minimises the buildup of stress on the airframe.
Some versions of AgustaWestland AW101 are equipped with aerial refueling capabilities, these AW101s will be able to operate continuously for up to 5 hours.
AgustaWestland AW101 is considered the most modern multipurpose helicopter of NATO today. Submarine hunting variants are currently serving in the navy of dozens of NATO countries.
In addition to NATO, the AgustaWestland AW101 helicopter also appears in service with several other countries including Japan, Indonesia, Algeria and Azerbaijan.
Since being put into service in 1999, over 140 AW101 variants have been ordered and more than 120 delivered. Civil operators also use AW101s in roles such as passenger and VIP transportation. The type has been deployed to active combat theatres, such as in support of coalition forces during the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. The flexibility makes the AW101 the most advanced, versatile and capable multi-role helicopter available today.