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PZL W-3 Sokol

Multi-role Military / Civilian Utility Helicopter

PZL W-3 Sokol

Multi-role Military / Civilian Utility Helicopter


The Polish-produced PZL W-3 Sokol has been in service since 1985.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: Poland
YEAR: 1985
STATUS: Active, In-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): PZL-Swidnik / AgustaWestland Swidnik - Poland
OPERATORS: Algeria; Chile; Germany; Indonesia; Italy; Nigeria; Philippines; Poland; Portugal; Russia; South Africa; South Korea; Soviet Union; Spain; United Arab Emirates

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the PZL W-3A Sokol model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
LENGTH: 46.62 feet (14.21 meters)
WIDTH: 51.51 feet (15.7 meters)
HEIGHT: 16.86 feet (5.14 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 8,488 pounds (3,850 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 14,110 pounds (6,400 kilograms)
ENGINE: 2 x WSKPZL Rzeszow PZL-10B turboshaft engines developing 900 shaft horsepower each and driving a four-bladed main rotor and three-bladed tail rotor.
SPEED (MAX): 162 miles-per-hour (260 kilometers-per-hour; 140 knots)
RANGE: 463 miles (745 kilometers; 402 nautical miles)
CEILING: 16,404 feet (5,000 meters; 3.11 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 1,830 feet-per-minute (558 meters-per-minute)


Civilian models unarmed. Military models can feature 2 x 23mm autocannon pack as well as four external hardpoints for rocket pods and missiles. 23mm cannons substituted for 1 x 12.7mm heavy machine gun in some models.

Series Model Variants
• W-3 - Base Series Designation; early production forms.
• W-3A - Base transport model
• W-3AS - W-3 airframes modified to W-3A standard
• W-3A2 - Two-axis Smith SN350 series autopilot; 22 models converted to standard.
• W-3AM - Float-equipped variant for on-water landings.
• W-3T - Basic unarmed military model
• W-3P - Military VIP transport model
• W-3S - Military VIP transport model
• W-3W - Armed variant sporting 2 x 23mm cannon pack and four hardpoints for rockets and missiles.
• W-3WA - Armed variant with FAR-29 certification.
• W-3R - MEDEVAC platform
• W-3RL - Over-land Search and Rescue (SAR) model.
• W-3RM "Anakonda" - Over-water SAR model
• W-3WARM - W-3RM with FAR-29 certification
• W-3PSOT "Anakonda" - Flying Command Center platform.
• W-3PPD "Gipsowka" - Flying Command Center platform.
• W-3RR "Procjon" - Radio-Electronic Reconnaissance variant.
• W-3PL "Gluszec" - Major modernization effort for existing stock; digital cockpit, new engines, enhanced capabilities.
• W-3B "Jastrzab" - Proposed attack helicopter variant with tandem seating.
• W-3K / W-3WB "Huzar"- Proposed gunship mark initially featuring Denel Rooivalk avionics and weapons support then, later, Israeli IAI avionics and weapons support.
• W-3L "Sokol Long" - Proposed lengthened transport model with seating for fourteen passengers.
• W-3MS / W-3WS - Proposed gunship models.
• W-3U "Salamandra" - Proposed armed variant with avionics and armament fit from the Mil Mi-24W gunship helicopter series.
• W-3U-1 "Aligator" - Proposed Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) variant.
• W-3PL/N - Proposed navalized W-3PL with inherent anti-ship/anti-submarine support; folding main rotor; radar-equipped and dipping sonar system as standard.


Detailing the development and operational history of the PZL W-3 Sokol Multi-role Military / Civilian Utility Helicopter.  Entry last updated on 6/22/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
PZL-Swidnik (now part of Italy's Leonardo-Finmeccanica by way of AgustaWestland) - established in 1951 - is the largest helicopter-maker in the nation of Poland. One of its most successful commercial products is the medium-lift PZL W-3 "Sokol" ("Falcon"), a multi-role-minded rotary-wing platform which continues to serve many global operators ranging from Algeria and Chile to Spain and Uganda. The product is something of a national success story for Poland as it became the first completely indigenous helicopter (designed and developed in-house) to emerge from the former Soviet-aligned country. However, production totals have been rather modest when compared to other more high-profile helicopters of same role, reaching only some 150 units to date (2018) with manufacture spanning from 1986 to the present.

W-3 Sokol Development

Design work began in 1973 as a local initiative to satisfy both military and civilian markets, primarily those in the Soviet sphere of influence. For the rigors of both industries, a twin-engine design was selected which aided reliability and survivability as well as met the medium-lift requirement. The overall configuration of the helicopter was largely conventional with the engines installed over the passenger cabin roof. A four-bladed main rotor was used for lift and this coupled with a three-bladed tail rotor (facing starboard) for stability. The undercarriage was wheeled for ground-running but fixed in place during flight. The pilots took up positions overlooking the short nose section in the usual way with the cockpit offering commanding views of the action around the helicopter's frontal section.

A first-flight was recorded on November 16th, 1979, delayed by a very long development phase which presented its set of challenges, launching what would become a storied service career. This then spurred low-rate production beginning in 1985 (while there still was a Soviet Union).

Sokol Civilian Marks

The W-3 Sokol fed the civilian market through several designs: W-3 was used to mark the base multi-purpose, utility-minded platforms of which thirty units followed to the standard. W-3A were FAR-29 certified and the E-3AS were W-3 airframes converted to the newer W-3A standard, twenty-two emerging from production. The W-3A2 was given a twin-axis Smith SN350 series autopilot system though only a single example was built. The W-3AM was completed with floats for on-water landings and thirteen were delivered to the standard. The W-3 "Erka" was proposed for the air-ambulance role but only a single example was realized.

Sokol Military Marks

The Sokol went on to shine for the military market: Initial, unarmed marks became the W-3, W-3T and W-3P. The W-3P became a VIP passenger transport and the W-3W/W-3WA were armed versions fitting 2 x 23mm GSz-23L series autocannons as well as four weapons hardpoints; thirty-four were built to the standard. The W-3AE was taken on by the Polish Army as a MEDEVAC platform and three were converted from the armed W-3WA mark. Another MEDEVAC form emerged through two examples as the W-3R, these used by the Polish Air Force. The service also had six W-3RL models for the Search and Rescue (SAR) role.

PZL W-3 Sokol (Cont'd)

Multi-role Military / Civilian Utility Helicopter

PZL W-3 Sokol (Cont'd)

Multi-role Military / Civilian Utility Helicopter

The W-3RM and W-3WARM "Anakonda" were navalized W-3 helicopters delivered to the Polish Navy for SAR operations at sea. Eight were procured. The W-3PSOT and W-3PPD "Gipsowka" were used as flying command centers for the Polish Army. Three examples of the W-3RR "Procjon" were built as radio-electronic reconnaissance platforms.

The W-3PL "Gluszec" is the current militarized Sokol helicopter standard. Based in the W-3WA model, it is fully-modernized for the battlefield requirements of the new millennium and features digital avionics, HOCAS ("Hands-On-Collective-And-Stick"), FLIR and Night-Vision (NV) support. Two large-area color Multi-Function Displays (MFDs) dominate the instrument panel ahead of each pilot position and each pilot is afforded HUD (Head-Up Display) showcasing pertinent mission and performance information. A Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) is standard as is IFF. The twin 23mm cannon fitting has been simplified to become a single 12.7mm heavy machine gun weapon operated by the pilot. The design appeared in testing in 1999 and has been taken into service by Polish Land Forces since (through an upgrade program of existing W-3WA production models).

The Sokol series was also proposed in a handful of other over-battlefield forms including anti-ship/anti-submarine (W-3U-1 "Alligator"), gunship and 14-passenger transport (W-3 "Sokol-Long") models but none came to fruition.

The W-3WB "Huzar" was a proposed armed variant of note and based in the W-3W model series. Denel of South Africa supplied the avionics and weapons fit from the Rooivalk attack helicopter. This product failed to materialize beyond a demonstrator form and instead shifted to Israeli IAI avionic and weapon suites, becoming the W-3H. The Polish Air Force was interested in procuring about 100 of these models but the deal was cancelled in 1998.

W-3A Performance and Walk-Around

The W-3A production model carries 2 x Rzeszow PZL-10B turboshaft engines rated at 900 horsepower each. It sports a maximum speed of 162mph and typically cruises near 150mph. Range is out to 465 miles (775 miles ferry) and its service ceiling is 16,100 feet. Rate-of-climb is 1,830 feet-per-minute.

Internally there is a crew of two seated side-by-side. Depending on seating configuration, as many as twelve passengers can be ferried to-and-fro. For the MEDEVAC role, up to four medical litters can be installed and there remains space for accompanying medical staff. Dimensions of the aircraft include an overall length of 46.7 feet, a width (including rotor diameter) of 51.5 feet and a height of 16.9 feet. Empty weight is 8,500lb against an MTOW of 14,110lb.


Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 200mph
Lo: 100mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (162mph).

    Graph average of 150 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the PZL W-3A Sokol's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Supported Arsenal
Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Graphical image of an aircraft heavy machine gun
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon
Graphical image of an aircraft rocket pod
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.