The official handover of the first two Leonardo AW–149 multi–role helicopters to the 25th Prince Joseph Poniatowski Air Cavalry Brigade took place on October 30, 20231, which will feed into the organizational structures of subordinate units.
In July 2022, it was decided to sign a contract through which the selection of the AW–149 design for the Polish Armed Forces under the Perkoz multi–role support helicopter program was approved2. Their purchase lays the groundwork for the Polish Army’s helicopter modernization program. Ultimately, it is planned to acquire 32 aircraft along with dedicated air armament and specialized equipment3, which will replace the PZL Świdnik W–3 ‘Sokół’ helicopters in use to date (they are planned to be re–deployed to other units)4. In addition, a logistics package will be provided, including spare parts, consumables and necessary equipment for ground handling of the AW–149 helicopter. An additional asset will be a training and simulator program, which involves comprehensive training of pilots, technical personnel and the delivery of a set of advanced aviation simulators5.
The AW–149 platform will be adapted to the current needs of the Polish Armed Forces to ensure adequate operational capabilities. To this end, it is planned to equip the helicopter with observation systems, shooting weapons, guided and unguided missiles and self–defense systems. Airborne means of aerial attack can be installed in the cabin or on dedicated external pylons installed in the airframe, depending on the variant of use of the helicopter6. What’s more, the helicopter will be operated for transport purposes, taking on board a total of 16 soldiers; 12 occupants in the cargo area, 2 military personnel, who will constitute the machine gun crew, 2 operators, who will be responsible for pilot safety7.
Within the framework of air armament, it is worth mentioning the Lockheed Martin AGM–114R2 Hellfire anti–tank guided missiles8 of the ‘air–to–ground’ class, with which AW–149 helicopters are to be retrofitted. They were the subject of a contract estimated at around $150 million between the Treasury – Armament Agency and the US government institution United States Army Security Assistance Command (USASAC), assuming the delivery of 800 AGM–114R2 Hellfires. Their purpose is to combat ground targets, both armored and unarmored. Their guidance is semi–actively laser–guided, and they have a multi–role warhead9.
The Leonardo AW–149 (formerly AgustaWestland) is an aircraft structure that was designed for missions in the fields of transport tasks, battlefield support, rescue. It has capabilities for Instrumental Flight Rules (IFR) and Visual Flight Rules (VFR) daytime operations, as well as Night Vision Conditions (NVC). The helicopter has a maximum takeoff weight of 8,300 kg with the possibility of increasing it to 8,600 kg, a maximum speed of 313 km/h, including a cruise speed estimated at 287 km/h, a maximum operational range of 958 km and a maximum flight duration of 4 h 55 min10.
1 The 25th Prince Józef Poniatowski Air Cavalry Brigade is an aeromobile tactical unit of the Land Forces. Subordinate units are deployed in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Nowy Glinnik and Leźnica Wielka (Łódź province).
2 Vide: Ł. Pacholski, Perkoz to start, online – https://zbiam.pl/artykuly/perkoz-na-start/ [accessed: 2.11.2023].
3 Defence24 official website, AW–149 for the Polish Army, online – https://defence24.pl/sily-zbrojne/aw-149-dla-wojska-polskiego [accessed: 2.11.2023].
4 Ł. Pacholski, First Leonardo AW149 helicopters delivered to the Polish Army, online – https://zbiam.pl/pierwsze-smiglowce-leonardo-aw149-dostarczone-do-wojska-polskiego/ [accessed: 2.11.2023].
5 Official website of the Polish Army, 32 modern AW–149 helicopters for Land Forces aviation, online – https://www.wojsko-polskie.pl/articles/tym-zyjemy-v/32-nowoczesnych-smiglowcow-aw149-dla-lotnictwa-wojsk-ladowych/ [accessed: 2.11.2023].
7 Official website of the Defense Industry, Swidnik’s gigantic contract for PLN 8.25 billion. AW–149 helicopters have gone to the Polish army, online – https://www.wnp.pl/przemysl-obronny/gigantyczny-kontrakt-swidnika-za-8-25-mld-zl-smiglowce-aw-149-trafily-do-polskiej-armii,769154.html [accessed: 2.11.2023].
8 Vide: Ł. Pacholski, Consent to sell Hellfire missiles to Poland, online – https://zbiam.pl/artykuly/zgoda-na-sprzedaz-polsce-pociskow-hellfire/ [accessed: 2.11.2023].
9 Vide: Official website of the Polish Army, Contract for Hellfire anti–tank guided missiles, online – https://www.wojsko-polskie.pl/au/articles/aktualnosci/umowa-na-przeciwpancerne-pociski-kierowane-hellfire/ [accessed: 2.11.2023].
10 Polish Army official website, 32 modern AW–149 helicopters for Land Forces aviation…, op. cit.
Photo: Alan Wilson, Agusta–Westland AW149 I–RAII, online – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ajw1970/11820382365 [accessed: 7.11.2023].
Tekst powstał w ramach realizacji zadania publicznego zleconego w ramach Rządowego Programu Rozwoju Organizacji Obywatelskich na lata 2018–2030 r. „Bezpieczna Polska jutra – rozwój działań misyjnych Alioth Foundation”.