The AW109 Power light multirole helicopter was developed by AgustaWestland in Italy. The AW109 was built in civil and military versions. The civil family of AW109 helicopters includes the AW109K2 civil rescue helicopter used by the Swiss rescue service, the AW109K2 police helicopter and the AW109 Power civil multirole helicopter.

The AW109 was originally developed as an ambulance and rescue helicopter to operate in mountainous regions of Switzerland.

The helicopter can fly from critically situated landing spots in adverse climates and from roof helipads in densely populated areas.

The AW109 Power first flew in 1995 and entered service in 1997. More than 470 were ordered by more than 50 countries worldwide for police, EMS (emergency medical services), VIP / corporate and military applications.

International helicopter orders and deliveries

The 32 (Royal Squadron) of the UK Royal Air Force placed an order for three helicopters in May 2005. The helicopters entered service with the RAF in March 2006 and are used in the VIP transport and communications role.

“The AW109 was originally developed as an ambulance and rescue helicopter to operate in mountainous regions of Switzerland.”

The Japanese National Police Agency placed an order for three additional AW109 Powers in June 2005 and four more in June 2005, four more in June 2006 and five in June 2008 bringing the total to 16.

The New Zealand Ministry of Defence awarded a €54m contract to AgustaWestland in May 2008 for five A109 light utility helicopters (LUH) and a flight simulator.

The Royal New Zealand Air Force revealed its first three of five A109 LUHs and a new hangar to park it in in May 2011 during a ceremony held at the Ohakea Air Base. The three AW109 helicopters are the first lot to replace the Bell 47 Sioux trainers. These AW109 LUHs were reassembled at the Ohakea Air base.

In October 2009, the Japan Alpen ordered an AW109 helicopter for VIP / corporate transport purposes. AgustaWestland and Kaigai Aviotech Corporation of Japan have signed a distribution agreement to supply the AW109 and AW119Ke to Japan.

Ten helicopters were ordered by the Libyan Government in January 2006 for border patrol. AgustaWestland, Finmeccanica and the Libyan Company for Aviation Industry set-up a joint venture, LIATEC to be based in Tripoli, for local assembly.

In June 2006, two AW109 helicopters were ordered by the Latvian Border Guard and three for the Beijing Public Security Bureau for use during the 2008 Olympic Games (first delivered July 2007). In October 2006, the Chilean Carabineros ordered four helicopters. The Egyptian Ministry of Defence ordered three AW109 Power helicopters for its air force.

The Public Security Bureau of Nanning (Southern China) awarded AgustaWestland a contract to supply one AW109 Power light twin-engine helicopter in October 2009. The helicopter is being used for law enforcement and civil protection / disaster relief purposes across the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.

Bangladesh Navy placed an order for two AW109 Power maritime helicopters in February 2010. In July 2010, Sloane Helicopters ordered ten helicopters, including AW109 Power and GrandNew models as a part of a multiyear contract signed in February 2006.

In January 2011, AgustaWestland delivered an emergency medical service (EMS) configured AW109 Power helicopter to Kocoglu Aviation, bringing the total deliveries to eight. Bulgarian Border Police took the delivery of two AW109 Power and one AW139 medium twin-engine helicopter in January 2011. Burbank Group signed a contract for one AW109 Power helicopter in May 2011.

Variations of the AW109

The AW109 power light multirole helicopter is followed by three variants, namely MH-68A, AW109E and AW109S helicopters.

An armed version, the MH-68A Stingray, is in service with the US Coastguard’s helicopter tactical squadron (HITRON) for drug interdiction. Utility versions are in service with the South African Air Force, the Swedish Army and the Malaysian Army.

The AW109E Power helicopter can be configured as a passenger helicopter for four or six passengers. The cabin can be quickly converted for an emergency medical evacuation role. It can be fitted with four seats for medical attendants and a litter for a single stretcher patient. A second litter can be stowed in the baggage compartment to the rear of the main cabin.

The helicopters have high engine power, FADEC management, composite rotor head and blades, advanced avionics and cockpit integration providing high performance in terms of speed, range and mission effectiveness.

The latest variant is the AW109S Grand, a stretched version, which has a maximum take-off weight of 3,175kg and cabin length of 2.3m. First deliveries of the AW109S Grand were in June 2005.

Policing capabilities of multirole helicopter

The police helicopter is operational with police forces, including those in the UK, Dubai, Italy, Japan and China.

The cockpit can be equipped with a global positioning navigation system, weather radar and the customer’s choice of frequency-modulated secure communications.


The optional equipment includes a forward-looking infrared and a low light level television camera for surveillance, observation and search, a Spectrolab SX-16 searchlight, a retractable MA3 lighting kit and loudspeakers.

The police helicopter can also be fitted with various lifting systems such as a 907kg cargo hook, a variable speed rescue hoist fitted with a 50m cable and capable of lifting 204kg. Safety systems include a rappelling kit, wire strike protection and emergency floats.

Civil rescue helicopter functions

The rescue variant of the helicopter first entered service with the REGA rescue organisation in Switzerland. The civil rescue helicopter A109K2 is equipped with a Thales (formerly Sextant) Avionics AFDS 95-1 automatic flight control system (AFCS), and a global positioning system and moving map display supplied by Elbit.

The cockpit is night vision compatible. The helicopter has a lifting hook rated at 907kg and Spectrolab SX-16 searchlight.

Design of AgustaWestland’s AW109

The helicopter airframe consists of a lightweight aluminium alloy and honeycomb structure with high crashworthiness. Two large sliding doors provide easy access and cargo operation and are in-flight operable. There are two separate pilot’s doors. The long tail boom configuration provides high yaw control for operation in strong winds.

The tricycle-type wheeled landing gear is fitted with air and oil shock absorbers for ground mobility and operation on rough terrain.

Energy-absorbing struts provide increased crashworthiness and a swivelling forward wheel gives easy ground manoeuvrability.

The four-bladed fully articulated main rotor has low vibration, low flicker and reduced noise level characteristics. The main rotor head is made of titanium with composite elastomeric bearings and blade grips.

The composite main rotor blades are ballistic tolerant for high survivability and reliability. The rotor is negative-g capable for high manoeuvrability. The tail rotor is a two-bladed stainless steel semi-rigid type.

Cockpit on the AW109 Power helicopter

The helicopter is equipped with an ergonomically designed glass cockpit with provision for mission dedicated displays and control instrumentation. The AW109 Power has single and dual pilot IFR (instrument flight rules) capability with a three-axis duplex automatic flight control system (AFCS).

The helicopter can be fitted with either Rockwell Collins ProLine II or Honeywell Silver Crown avionics suite. The navigation systems include an automatic direction finding navigation aid (ADF), distance measuring equipment (DME), a global positioning system (GPS), a radar altimeter, an emergency locator transponder (ELT), a VHF omnidirectional radio ranger (VOR), ground speed meter and inertial location system.

The flight control system includes a collective, cyclic and anti-torque system. The cyclic and collective controls are powered by two hydraulic systems.

The anti-torque control system is hydraulically powered. A dual redundant three-axis stability augmentation system is fitted as an option.

An optional Rockwell Collins cockpit management system is provided for monitoring and operating different avionics via one or more centrally located control and display units.

Engines of the light multirole helicopter

The helicopter is powered by two side-by-side Pratt & Whitney PW-206C or Turbomeca Arrius 2K1 engines with full authority digital electronic control (FADEC).

Each engine is equipped with independent fuel and oil systems and independent engine controls.

The transmission system is rated at 900hp for improved high-temperature and high-altitude performance. For enhanced safety and reliability the helicopter has a 640hp single-engine emergency rating and the dry run capability is 30 minutes, allowing the pilot the opportunity to find a safe landing spot in the event of oil loss.

There are three fuel systems configurations, three cells of 605l, four cells of 710l and five cells of 870l. A crashworthy fuel system, with closed-circuit refuelling and self-sealing fuel tanks can be fitted as an option.

The helicopter is fitted with two independent flight control hydraulic systems, each capable of operating main actuators in case of failure of the other system.

The utility hydraulic system has two accumulators (a normal and an emergency accumulator) to operate the rotor brake, the wheel brakes and the nose wheel centring device.

Performance of the Italian-manufactured AW109

The AW109 helicopter can climb at the rate of 9.8m a second. The maximum and cruise speeds of the helicopter are 311km/h and 285km/h respectively.

The service ceiling of the AW109 is 5,974m and the maximum endurance is four hours and 51 minutes. The helicopter weighs around 1,590kg and the maximum take-off weight is 3,000kg.