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Poland begins receiving Merlin ASW helicopters

The first of four AW101 Merlin ASW helicopters arrived in Poland on 7 August. (Polish Armament Agency)

Poland has begun receiving the Leonardo AW101 Merlin helicopters it ordered in 2019 to satisfy its anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and combat search-and-rescue (CSAR) requirements.

Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak announced the milestone on 7 August, saying the first of four helicopters was en route from the Leonardo production facility in Yeovil, UK. The Polish Armament Agency confirmed its arrival on the same day.

The Polish Ministry of National Defence (MND) is acquiring the Merlins to replace the Warsaw Pact-era Mil Mi-14 ‘Haze' ASW helicopters in service with the Polish Navy. While the initial order was for four helicopters, there may be a follow-on order for a further four at a later date.

Neither the MND nor Leonardo have disclosed a delivery timeline for the helicopters.

The Merlin is well suited to the overwater ASW and CSAR roles in that it benefits from three-engine safety; a full ice protection system for flight in known icing conditions; long range and endurance; a range of 1,300 km; and a proven 30 minute ‘run dry' gearbox as well as multiple redundancy features in the avionic and mission systems. 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.

The aircraft can also be equipped with an advanced CSAR/SAR equipment package that includes a multipanel Osprey active electronically scanned array (AESA) surveillance radar system from Leonardo that provides 360° coverage; a 4-axis digital Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS); two rescue hoists; a searchlight; an electro optical sensor; and a fully integrated avionics and mission system.

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