The first of Norway’s new AW101 SAR Helicopter are put into operation at Sola rescue base outside Stavanger. The new helicopters – dubbed SAR Queen – will provide greater security for people at sea, along the coast and in remote areas across the country. During the ceremony at the Sola base, the Prime Minister Erna Solberg took the symbolic act of handing over the guard radio to the new helicopters and their crew, to show that the SAR Queen is now in the process of taking over the job of the Sikorsky Sea King helicopters. In December 2013 the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security signed a contract for 16 AW101 helicopters plus support and training, to meet the Norwegian All Weather SAR Helicopter (NAWSARH) requirement based on a new generation aircraft.
Leonardo announced the first of 16 AgustaWestland AW101 SAR (Search And Rescue) helicopters successfully performed its maiden flight at its Helicopter Division’s Yeovil factory in the UK on 21st March 2016. Each aircraft is provided with an advanced SAR equipment package including a multi-panel AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) surveillance radar system from Finmeccanica Airborne & Space Systems Division, built at the company’s Edinburgh centre of excellence, that provides 360° coverage. The large cabin doors and rear ramp provide easy access for personnel, survivors and equipment into the 27 m3 cabin which has stand-up head room throughout.
Leonardo’s Helicopter Division will provide initial support and training services, including spares at each of the aircraft operating bases and aircrew training. It will then provide performance based logistic support to deliver approximately 90,000 flying hours across the fleet of 16 helicopters over the initial 15 year period of operation. In support of pilot training, a full flight simulator will be available in Norway in advance of the delivery of the first aircraft. According to the plan, all helicopters will be in operation by 2022. The further phasing in depends, among other things, on the duration of infection control measures in connection with the coronavirus.
The AgustaWestland (now Leonardo) AW101 is a medium-lift helicopter used in both military and civil applications. First flown in 1987, it was developed by a joint venture between Westland Helicopters in the United Kingdom and Agusta in Italy in response to national requirements for a modern naval utility helicopter. Several operators, including the armed forces of Britain, Denmark, and Portugal, use the name Merlin for their AW101 aircraft. It is manufactured at factories in Yeovil, England and Vergiate, Italy; licensed assembly work has also taken place in Japan and the United States. This mission flexibility makes the AW101 the most advanced, versatile and capable multi-role helicopter available today.