Italian defence company Leonardo has announced that the Polish Navy’s first AW101 (ZR285) helicopter completed its maiden flight at its Yeovil site.

During the first flight, the company tested the main airframe, control system, and engine handling of the aircraft.

Notably, Leonardo received a €380m contract in 2019 to deliver four AW101 helicopters to Polish Navy.

Leonardo’s wholly-owned Polish subsidiary, PZL-Świdnik, is the primary contractor and will be executing all related works. Leonardo’s Yeovil site will be used to assemble the aircraft.

The addition of AW101 helicopters will bolster the Polish Navy’s helicopter capability. These aircraft will be used by Polish Naval Aviation Brigade for a range of missions including Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) operations.

Leonardo Helicopters (UK) senior test pilot Miles Barnett said: “This was the first flight of the new AW101 ASW aircraft built here in Yeovil for the Polish military. The flight represents not only the culmination of the design and production processes, but also the start of the thorough testing phase of the aircraft’s development.

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“It is expected that there will be a total of 700 hours of flight testing across the four airframes, which will confirm the correct function of each aircraft as well as develop and validate a broad range of mission and customer specific changes from the standard AW101.”

The AW101 for the Polish Navy will be equipped with several systems, such as a 12.7mm machine gun, autopilot with SAR modes, data transmission system, tactical navigation system, and protection and defence systems (passive and active).

They will also feature tactical radio, reconnaissance radar, an observation head (FLIR), and an S-mode transponder.

The multi-role helicopter is already in service in Italy, the UK, Canada, Denmark, Norway, and Portugal.