First flying in October of 1987 and officially adopted in 1999, the AgustaWestland AW101/EH101 "Merlin" has gone on to find top-tier service with several notable military and civilian operators including Canada, Italy, Norway and the United Kingdom. These helicopters have been tasked with a variety of roles including general transport, utility and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) operations at various levels. With its proven pedigree, the AW101 line has been forged into the HH-101 "Caesar", a dedicated Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR)platform of similar form and function - though now outfitted with advanced systems and suites for its given role.
The early recipient of the HH-101 is slated to become the Italian Air Force which, in turn, will give up use of its aged fleet of American Sikorsky HH-3F "Pelican" helicopters. The HH-101 is billed as a more refined and advanced variant of the base Merlin line, installing an electro-optical sensor in a chin fairing as well as featuring an integrated defensive suite to ensure battlefield survival. An optional kit will allow for in-flight refueling to further expand operational ranges of the product. As it stands in April of 2014, the Italian Air Force has on order twelve HH-101 aircraft (as "HH-101A"). The first is expected to be delivered sometime in 2014.
A first flight of an HH-101 airframe was undertaken at the AgustaWestland facility of Yeovil, UK. This showcased the aircraft's lines that are largely similar to the original AW101, save for the chin fairing. The triple engine configuration still drives a five-bladed main rotor and four-bladed tail rotor (portside facing). Side sponsons house the retractable main landing gear legs while a twin-wheeled nose leg retracts into the cockpit floor. The standard flight crew will total five crew and include two pilots as well as mission specialists. Supported armament is said to be up to 3 x 7.62mm machine gun systems (including the M134 Gatling) positioned at the side doors and one at the rear-facing loading ramp. All three will be featured atop trainable pintle mountings and afforded ballistics protection. Both cockpit seats will be armored to protect the flight crew.
Beyond its stated CSAR role, the HH-101 is envisioned for civilian-minded SAR sorties as well as special forces insertion/extraction and support. The cabin will allow for configuration to the MEDEVAC role and retains space for up to 20 combat-ready infantry when needed as a general transport. These elements will be well served through the powered rear loading ramp.
February 2016 - The first HH-101A has entered service with the Italian Air Force. The service maintains a total requirement of 15 of the helicopters.
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Special-Mission: MEDical EVACuation (MEDEVAC)
Extraction of wounded combat or civilian elements by way of specialized onboard equipment and available internal volume or external carrying capability.
✓Special-Mission: Search & Rescue (SAR)
Ability to locate and extract personnel from areas of potential harm or peril (i.e. downed airmen in the sea).
General transport functionality to move supplies/cargo or personnel (including wounded and VIP) over range.
Serving Special Forces / Special Operations elements and missions.
74.9 ft (22.83 m)
61.0 ft (18.60 m)
21.9 ft (6.66 m)
34,392 lb (15,600 kg)
75,839 lb (34,400 kg)
+41,447 lb (+18,800 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Leonardo HH-101A production variant)
3 x General Electric GE CT7-8E turboshaft engines developing 2,500 horsepower each while driving a five-bladed main rotor and four-bladed main rotor.
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