AgustaWestland, January 12, 2006 - UK / Italy - AgustaWestland has launched its Helicopter Electro Actuation Technology (HEAT) programme for the EH101 Merlin HM Mk1 helicopter.
The launch follows the award of the Merlin Capability Sustainment Plus (MCSP) programme contract announced by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) on 12th January 2006 and the successful results of trials and testing AgustaWestland and its industrial partners have recently carried out to demonstrate the technology.
The AgustaWestland HEAT programme is being funded through an innovative contracting strategy which builds on the partnered principles being developed between AgustaWestland and the UK MoD, which were outlined in the recently released Defence Industrial Strategy (DIS) Defence White Paper. Funding of the research and development phase was jointly funded by the UK MoD and industry.
AgustaWestland’s HEAT introduces a state of the art, third generation fly by wire system that utilises electrical actuators in place of the existing hydraulic units, to provide the control inputs to the helicopter’s rotor systems. This technology reduces pilot workload, cost of ownership, maintenance and weight while giving improved survivability, safety, aircraft handling and agility.
“The EH101 is the first helicopter in the world to utilise this advanced technology which will bring significant operational and cost benefits to customers. We are pleased that by adopting the partnering principles being developed between AgustaWestland and the UK MoD we will be able to introduce this important technology into the EH101 Merlin HM Mk1 fleet”, said Alan Johnston, Managing Director Military Programmes, AgustaWestland.
AgustaWestland will offset the HEAT system production costs against future cost of ownership savings that will be made through future Merlin support contracts. This innovative approach has enabled this important technology to be introduced into the Merlin HM Mk1 as part of the MCSP programme.
Unlike any other fly-by-wire system developed for helicopters the AgustaWestland HEAT system uses electro actuation technology for all flying controls; i.e. the main and tail rotors. The brushless electric motor actuators incorporate quadraplex four lane architecture with fail technology that allow the system to function safely even after failure of two of the systems.
The replacement of simplex mechanical flying control systems with quadraplex electronic and mechanical systems, eliminates complex hydraulic systems from the aircraft, thereby reducing weight, maintenance costs and improving safety. The electrical actuators are maintenance free and unlike mechanical systems do not require the same rigging checks to be made post maintenance.
The improved handling qualities provided by the HEAT system have both operational and safety benefits. In naval operations the system will enable the limits for ship operations in adverse weather to be expanded while on the battlefield the improved handling allows improved terrain following and masking as well as increased agility.
During 2005 testing of the HEAT system components has been undertaken covering areas such as system performance, durability, vibration, environmental, high intensity radiated fields and lightning strike protection. The positive results from this testing allows the programme to proceed to flight testing with low technical risk. Testing of the system components and of the HEAT ground rig will continue in 2006 leading to a first flight clearance in late 2006.
AgustaWestland, a Finmeccanica company, is one of the largest helicopter companies in the world. The company offers an unrivalled range of helicopters, training and support solutions to satisfy the requirements of civil and military customers. AgustaWestland has its primary operations in Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.