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HH-71 CSAR-X Team Successfully Demonstrates Aerial Refuelling

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The AgustaWestland and Lockheed Martin HH-71 Team successfully conducted aerial refuelling tests between a RAF AW101 Merlin Mk3 helicopter and an Italian Air Force C-130J tanker, further demonstrating the aircraft’s superior capabilities and low-risk approach for the U.S. Air Force’s Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR-X) requirement. The successful fuel transfer occurred over the south of England on February 13, marking the first time a British helicopter demonstrated air-to-air refuelling capability. The AW101 and RAF test pilots plugged the helicopter’s refuelling probe to each of the tanker’s two wing station drogues -- the fact that the fuel transfer occurred on the first attempts makes the demonstration even more impressive. The sorties were flown at 4,000 ft altitude, with both aircraft travelling at 127 knots. All trial objectives were completed with multiple in-flight refuelling events successfully achieved up to the maximum Merlin Mk3 flying weight of 34,400lb.




“To support our win strategy of providing the Air Force the lowest risk offer, we completed the aerial refuelling tests prior to contract award" said Dan Spoor, Lockheed Martin’s CSAR-X vice president. “With this proven aerial refuelling capability, the aircraft has demonstrated all critical capabilities required for the CSAR mission. The aircraft exceeds the technical readiness level required by the CSAR-X RFP.” All Merlin Mk3 helicopters have air refuelling capability and this trial is the latest step in providing an Operational Release for in-service Merlin Mk3 helicopters fitted with the advanced design BERP III and BERP IV rotor blades.



"The robust NDI air refuelling technology employed on the HH-71 combined with its excellent cockpit visibility, significant probe to blade clearance, precise handling qualities and high power margins result in the most capable, low risk aerial refuelling helicopter for the CSAR-X mission,” said Stephen C. Moss, chief executive officer of AgustaWestland North America. “The fact that the sorties were flown with both the BERP III and the BERP IV advanced rotor systems, makes the successful trials all the more significant.” The tests were performed through the collaboration of the HH-71 Team, Britain’s Ministry of Defence, the Aircraft Test & Evaluation Centre (QinetiQ Boscombe Down), the Italian Air Force, the Department of Experimental Flight Pratica di Mare (Rome), and the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency.

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