On 23rd January 2014, the first Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) AW101 for Italy made it’s maiden flight at AgustaWestland’s factory in Yeovil, Somerset. Officially named the AgustaWestland HH-101A Caesar, the Italian Air Force has ordered 15 examples to replace the Sikorsky HH-3 Pelican for personnel recovery and special forces operations.
The first aircraft’s UK test registration is ZR352 and it’s sister aircraft shortly to begin test flying will wear ZR353. These first two are set for delivery in the fourth quarter of 2014.
In addition to the AW101’s impressive package, the HH-101A will be fitted with three M134 7.62 mm pintle-mounted Gatling- guns (installed in right and left doors and on the rear ramp), armoured cockpit seats, ballistic protection for crewmen and critical systems, and an integrated electronic warfare system providing self-protection against radar, laser and infrared threats. The HH-101A will also feature an air-to-air refuelling kit for extended range operations.
AgustaWestland have also agreed to support a rotary training system between the company’s Frosinone factory, near Rome, and the Italian Air Force's Helicopter flying school, 72nd Wing (72° Stormo).
The programme will be based on the AgustaWestland AW139 which will provide both conversion courses aswell as training for Search and Rescue (SAR) and government transport duties for HH-139A/VH139 crews and personnel recovery and special forces operations for the new HH-101A personel.