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SW-4 prototype
Role Multipurpose utility helicopter
National origin Poland
Manufacturer PZL-Świdnik
First flight 29 October 1996
Introduction 2002
Status In service
Primary user Polish Armed Forces
Number built 40[1]
Unit cost
$700,000 (2002)[2]

The PZL SW-4 Puszczyk (Polish "tawny owl") is a Polish light single-engine multipurpose helicopter manufactured by PZL-Świdnik. The SW-4 was further developed by PZL-Świdnik and corporate parent AgustaWestland into an optionally piloted vehicle, the SW-4 Solo.



The design of the SW-4 helicopter originates from the 1960s, during which period it was decided against proceeding to production with the SW4 due to demand for military helicopters from various nations within the Warsaw Pact.[2] Around 1981, development work at PZL-Swidnik was started on a new four/five place light utility helicopter about 1981. The original design for the SW-4 called for it to be powered by a 300 kW (400 shp) PZL Rzeszow GTD350 turboshaft engine, as featured upon the prototype mockup. According to PZL-Swidnik, the early SW-4 could reach the rated top speed of about 240 km/h (130 kn) and a max range with auxiliary fuel tank about 900 km (485 nmi).[citation needed]

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent European restructuring, predominantly those countries that had formerly been members of the Warsaw Pact, the emerging political climate had allowed PZL-Swidnik to redesign the SW-4 to make use of a new foreign-built powerplant, the Allison (now Rolls-Royce) Model 250 turboshaft engine. In 1995, the SW-4 project was formally re-launched and, in addition to the switch of power plant, the rotorcraft's design was substantially modified. Design alternations include the adoption of epoxy resin-based composite materials for the fuselage structure, further streamlining of the fuselage, and a revised tail and tail boom made primarily of aluminium.[2]

SW-4 under construction, 2011

In December 1994, the project had proceeded to ground testing of a non-flying prototype. Subsequently, two flight-capable prototypes were assembled to support the test program, the first of these performing its first flight on or around 26 October 1996.[citation needed] By May 2002, the two prototypes had accumulated a total of 640 flight hours.[2] PZL-Swidnik targeted US FAA FAR Part 27 certification for the SW4; it was believed that the program should be capable of producing production models by 1999.[citation needed] However, a decision was taken to redesign the main rotor head, which resulted in a costly delay; other changes made included the horizontal stabilizer being extended and improvements of the hydraulic systems.[citation needed]

In 2002, the first production model SW4, which was equipped with the Rolls-Royce engine, was approaching receipt of certification from the Polish civil aviation authority.[2] Certification for use in other markets is to be made upon customer request.[2] On 27 September 2007, type certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) was received.[3] Following on from the certification of the Rolls-Royce model, PZL Swidnik pursued a separate re-certification for a modified SW4 fitted with a Pratt & Whitney Canada PW200 powerplant instead. In addition, a twin-powerplant model was developed in consideration with forthcoming European regulations which would restrict single engine helicopter operations.[citation needed]

Further development[edit]

The SW4 as planned was expected to fulfill a range of utility missions ranging from civil and executive transport to Medevac, police, border patrol duties and some of military pilot training tasks; however, for several years the Polish military had served as the type's only customer. In Polish service, the SW-4 was being used as a trainer rotorcraft at "The Center of Aviation Education and Training at Dęblin" (Ośrodka Szkolenia Lotniczego w Dęblinie).[2][4]

PZL-Świdnik's parent company, AgustaWestland chose to use the SW-4 as the basis for an optionally manned rotorcraft, the PZL-Świdnik SW-4 Solo. In 2011, development of an optionally-manned demonstrator began.[5] The SW-4 Solo was first was shown at the MSPO 2012 in Poland as "SW-4 Solo" RUAS/OPH platform (Rotorcraft Unmanned Air System/Optionally Piloted Helicopter).[6][7] In 2013, AgustaWestland was given a Royal Navy contract for the SW-4 Solo's development as part of the UK’s RWUAS (Rotary Wing Unmanned Air System) Capability Concept Demonstrator (CCD) programme.[8] Development of the SW-4 Solo is also being supported by the Italian Ministry of Defence's Directorate for Air Armaments under the Italian National Military Research Plan.[9] By September 2015, the SW-4 Solo had performed a total of 26 demonstration flights, which included simulated shipboard integration tests.[10]

In 2006, PZL-Świdnik entered into an agreement with China's Jiujiang Hongying Technology Development Ltd. which aimed for the establishment of an SW4 assembly line in Jiujiang, China. In December 2008, a type certification for the SW-4 was issued by the Civil Aviation Administration of China.[11] In late February 2010, the maiden flight of the first SW-4 to be co-produced in China took place;[12] in the same month, PZL Swidnik announced an agreement to produce 150 helicopters, an unspecified number of which being the SW-4, were to be produced for the Chinese market at Jiujiang.[13] By March 2015, a total of five co-produced SW-4s had been delivered to Chinese customers.[14]


PZL SW-4 #0203 of Polish Air Force

The SW-4 is powered by a single 335 kW (450 shp) (283 kW/380 shp max continuous rated) Rolls-Royce Model 250C20R/2 turboshaft engine, which drives the rotorcraft's three-blade main rotor and two-blade tail rotor. An alternative engine is provided in the form of the 460 kW (615 shp) Pratt & Whitney Canada PW200/9 turboshaft engine. The main rotor is fully articulated and the rotor blades on both the main and tail rotors are composed of composite materials. The SW-4 uses hydraulic flight controls, the rotorcraft has been promoted as possessing excellent flight controls, and can be flown in both day and night visual flight rules conditions.[15]

The SW-4 is capable of transporting up to five people, including a pilot, in crashworthy seats; passengers are provided with a high level of external visibility and comfort, an optional vibration absorption system is also offered.[15] The main cabin can be rapidly reconfigured between passenger and cargo-carrying configurations and is accessed via two sliding doors on either side of the cabin, a dedicated baggage compartment is also present beneath the main cabin.[14] PZL- Świdnik stated that multi-role operations had been a high priority during the SW-4's development; and that the rotorcraft is well-suited to passenger transport, primary and advanced training, patrol and surveillance missions.[15]

Various optional equipment can be installed, such as removable co-pilot flight controls, wire-string protection, a forward looking infrared (FLIR) sensor system, instrument flight rules (IFR) training fittings, radio altimeter, emergency medical system, moving map, external loudspeakers and/or search light, floatation gear, and an external cargo sling. Much of the external equipment is designed to be held on external extension arms; overall, the SW-4 can mount/carry a useful payload of up to nearly 600 kilograms.[14][15] Both basic and advanced trainer variants of the SW-4 have been developed to conform with NATO standards and military pilot training regulations, it is promoted as possessing a high level of inherent flight stability and safety; the advanced model is compatible with night vision goggles (NVG) and is equipped with an emergency simulation unit.[15]



Specifications (SW-4)[edit]

SW-4 on static display, 2010
Flight controls of a SW-4, 2007

Data from AgustaWestland[15]

General characteristics


See also[edit]

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists


  1. ^ "La prima volta di PZL Swidnik sotto la bandiera AgustaWestland."
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Wastnage, Justin. "PZL SW-4 prepares for certification within weeks" Flight International, 21 May 2002.
  3. ^ "EASA Type Certificate: Data Sheet - PZL SW-4." EASA, 7 December 2011.
  4. ^ "Polish Air Force to purchase SW-4." PZL-Świdnik, May 2002.
  5. ^ "AgustaWestland developing optionally manned demonstrator." FlightGlobal, March 2013.
  6. ^ PZL-Świdnik prezentuje po raz pierwszy SW-4 „Solo” RUAS/OPH. PZL-Świdnik, September 2012.
  7. ^ Stephens, Ernie. "PZL Takes Wraps Off SW-4 Optionally Piloted Helicopter." Aviation Today, 5 September 2012.
  8. ^ http://gdziewojsko.wordpress.com/listy/sw-4/PZL SW-4 Puszczyk w Wojsku Polskim
  9. ^ "Rotorcraft unmanned air System / optionally piloted helicopter." dgaa.it, Retrieved: 12 October 2015.
  10. ^ Stevenson, Beth. "DSEI: AgustaWestland reveals results of Royal Navy RWUAS trials." Flight International, 15 September 2015.
  11. ^ "PZL SW-4 has obtained the Chinese certification." PZL-Świdnik, 30 December 2008.
  12. ^ http://slide.mil.news.sina.com.cn/slide_8_202_2959.html "Maiden Flight of SW4 Co-Produced in China."
  13. ^ "China to buy 150 helicopters from PZL Swidnik". Agence France-Press, 27 February 2010.
  14. ^ a b c "AgustaWestland Appoints Official SW-4 Distributor in China." Aviation Times, 13 March 2015.
  15. ^ a b c d e f "SW-4." AgustaWestland, Retrieved: 12 October 2015.
  16. ^ "World Air Forces 2013" (PDF). Flightglobal Insight. 2013. Retrieved 15 February 2013. 

External links[edit]