The AW109LUH is a militarised variant of the AW109 commercial helicopter. Image courtesy of New Zealand Defence Force.
The power-plant of the AW109LUH helicopter includes two Turbomeca Arrius 2K2 engines. Image courtesy of Kenneth Iwelumo.
The South African Air Force acquired 30 AW109LUH helicopters. Image courtesy of Bob Adams.
The AW109LUH helicopter can fly at a cruise speed of 283km/h. Image courtesy of Vaughan Leiberum.


The AW109LUH (Light Utility Helicopter) is a multi-mission, twin-engine rotorcraft developed by AgustaWestland. It is a militarised version of the proven AW109 civilian helicopter. The platform offers high controllability and manoeuvrability when undertaking missions in the most demanding weather and environmental conditions.

This multi-role helicopter can perform mission tasks, including armed reconnaissance, close-air support, escort or area suppression, search and rescue (SAR), light attack or anti-tank, liaison and command, troop transport, and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC).

AW109LUH is currently in service with the armed forces of Sweden, South Africa, New Zealand, Nigeria and Malaysia.

Design and features of the AW109LUH

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AW109LUH’s ballistic-resistant airframe integrates redundant systems and explosion-proof fuel tanks for high survivability and safety. The airframe also supports the installation of internal and external weapon mounts.

The helicopter’s spacious cabin has wide doors allowing for easier modifications when catering to customer-specific mission requirements. The LUH can be integrated with a range of mission equipment, such as wire strike protection systems, a cargo platform and hooks, a rescue hoist, emergency floats, multi-band radios, FLIR/TV sensors, sonobuoy dispensers, a search light and external loudspeaker system.

The utility helicopter has a length of 13.04m and width of 10.83m. Its compact external dimensions enable high-manoeuvrability in flight for operations aboard small vessels. The craft has a baseline empty weight of 1,980kg and can take-off with a maximum weight of 3,200kg, and can carry one or two crew members and six to seven troops.

Military cockpit and avionics systems

The AW109LUH’s integrated glass cockpit features an ergonomically designed instrument panel fitted with three liquid-crystal, multi-functional displays. The night-vision goggle (NVG) compatible cockpit enables pilots to operate the helicopter under visual flight rules (VFR) / instrument flight rules (IFR), and instrument meteorological conditions (IMC).

"Advanced avionics and systems offer outstanding situational awareness, mission flexibility and optimised operational success."

Its avionics suite includes a flight management system (FMS), a radio management system (RMS) consisting of a VHF-UHF or AM-FM radio, HF or SSB radio, automatic direction finder (ADF), distance measuring equipment (DME), global positioning system (GPS), doppler velocity sensor, attitude heading reference system (AHRS), stormscope, IFF transponder, radar altimeter, emergency locator transmitter (ELT), VOR / ILS, a digital map generator, and an intercom system (ICS).

Aboard the AW109LUH, the advanced avionics and systems offer outstanding situational awareness, mission flexibility and optimised operational success to meet the demanding requirements of modern armed forces.

AW109 helicopter weapon systems

The AW109 light utility helicopter is armed with TOW, HOT or Hellfire anti-tank missiles, Stinger or Mistral air-to-air missiles, a 70mm rocket launcher, a 12.7mm machine gun pod with 250 or 400 rounds, a combined 12.7mm gun pod with three-tube 70mm rocket launcher, and a 7.62mm twin-machine gun-pod.

Survivability features of AW109 light utility helicopter

The LUH’s airframe and main rotor can survive single 7.62mm or 12.7mm round hits. The AW109 is also fitted with a crashworthy fuel system, self-sealing fuel tanks, and armoured crew seats.

"The LUH’s airframe and main rotor can survive single 7.62mm or 12.7mm round hits."

Survivability is further improved by radar warning and laser warning receivers, chaff and flare dispenser, and a missile approach warning system aboard the helicopter.

AW109LUH engines and performance

The AW109LUH is powered by two high-performance Turbomeca Arrius 2K2 engines equipped with full-authority digital engine control (FADEC) system. Each engine develops a take-off power of 533kW and a maximum power of 590kW.

The five-cell fuel system fitted to the fuselage offers a fuel storage capacity of 881l. The power-plant delivers superior performance in hot and high, as well as single-engine operation conditions.

The helicopter has a cruise speed of 283km/h and can attain a never exceed speed (VNE) of 311km/h. It can reach an altitude of 6,096m at a rate of climb of 8.5m/s. AW109LUH has a maximum range of 926km and can be airborne for 4h and 46 minutes.