A modern country can be measured by the levels of protection that a government can ensure to its population in case of emergencies and natural disasters. This is particularly significant when climatic and environmental conditions are difficult and sometimes extreme. This is the case for Norway which has confirmed its technological investments in the helicopter sector with 16 new Leonardo AW101 Search And Rescue (SAR) aircraft for long-range and maritime operations.
Flying long distances in the Arctic Circle, with temperatures often far below zero, strong winds, and thousands of kilometres of coastline, often met by rough seas – this is the operational context in which the Norwegian teams are called to work, and the AW101, known in the country as the SAR Queen, is the best answer for this kind of search and rescue mission. Thanks to the aircraft’s equipment – manufactured and assembled by Leonardo’s expertise – the AW101 can successfully carry out rescue missions in conditions that would have been prohibitive with previous aircraft.
Starting from 1 September 2020, the first six helicopters delivered by Leonardo to Norway officially became operational from the Royal Norwegian Air Force base in Sola, following a ceremony with important local and national dignitaries. It is expected that the Ørland and Banak bases will become operational in 2021. Norway has so far received 6 out of 16 helicopters. The remaining aircraft are being assembled, integrated and tested by Leonardo, at its site in Yeovil, UK. In the first month of service, the SAR Queen aircraft have undertaken missions in challenging weather conditions and inhospitable environments, flying for about 80 hours. The majority of the missions were SAR operations (including a night mountain rescue) and an emergency transportation.
The AW101 is one of the most advanced SAR helicopters and incorporates many technological features including:
- 'Anti-ice' system
- Electronic anti-collision system
- Active Electronically Scanned Array Osprey radar
- Mobile Phone Detection and Location System