The AgustaWestland AW109 is a lightweight, twin-engine, eight-seat multi-purpose helicopter built by the Italian manufacturer Leonardo (formerly AgustaWestland, merged into the new Finmeccanica since 2016). The rotorcraft had the distinction of being the first all-Italian helicopter to be mass-produced. Developed as the A109 by Agusta, it originally entered service in 1976 and has since been used in various roles, including light transport, medevac, search-and-rescue, and military roles. The AW109 is a lightweight twin-engine helicopter, known for its speed, elegant appearance and ease of control. The type has proven highly popular with VIP/corporate customers, other roles for the AW109 have included emergency medical services, law enforcement, homeland security missions, harbor pilot shuttle duty, search and rescue, maritime operations, and military uses. In 2008, AgustaWestland claimed the AW109 to be “one of the industry’s best-selling helicopters”.
The AW109 is flown by a range of operators including private companies, military services, emergency services and air charter companies. Optional mission equipment for the AW109 has included dual controls, a rotor brake, windshield wipers, a fixed cargo hook, snow skis, external loudspeakers, wire-strike protection system, engine particle separator, engine compartment fire extinguishers, datalink, and rappelling fittings. A range of armaments can be installed upon the AW109, including pintle-mounted machine guns, machine gun pods, 20mm cannons, rocket pods, anti-tank missiles and air-to-air missiles. Those AW109s operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, later designated as MH-68A, had the following equipment installed: a rescue hoist, emergency floats, FLIR, Spectrolab NightSun search light, a 7.62 mm M240D machine gun and a Barrett M107 semi-automatic .50 caliber anti-material rifle with laser sight.
The AW109LUH (Light Utility Helicopter) is a militarised version of the proven AW109 civilian helicopter. The platform offers high controllability and manoeuvrability when undertaking missions in the most demanding weather and environmental conditions. This multi-role helicopter can perform mission tasks, including armed reconnaissance, close-air support, escort or area suppression, search and rescue (SAR), light attack or anti-tank, liaison and command, troop transport, and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC). AW109LUH’s ballistic-resistant airframe integrates redundant systems and explosion-proof fuel tanks for high survivability and safety. The airframe also supports the installation of internal and external weapon mounts.
AW109LUH is currently in service with the armed forces of Sweden, South Africa, New Zealand, Nigeria and Malaysia.
The AW109LUH’s integrated glass cockpit features an ergonomically designed instrument panel fitted with three liquid-crystal, multi-functional displays. The night-vision goggle (NVG) compatible cockpit enables pilots to operate the helicopter under visual flight rules (VFR) / instrument flight rules (IFR), and instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). The AW109 light utility helicopter is armed with TOW, HOT or Hellfire anti-tank missiles, Stinger or Mistral air-to-air missiles, a 70mm rocket launcher, a 12.7mm machine gun pod with 250 or 400 rounds, a combined 12.7mm gun pod with three-tube 70mm rocket launcher, and a 7.62mm twin-machine gun-pod. Survivability is further improved by radar warning and laser warning receivers, chaff and flare dispenser, and a missile approach warning system aboard the helicopter.