The W-3 Sokol (“Falcon”) is a multi-purpose helicopter designed for combat duties. It’s of Polish origin and is manufactured by PZL-Swidnik (now AgustaWestland Swidnik).
The W-3 is a medium helicopter with twin-engines whose development began in 1973. The first flight of the W-3 took place in 1979. PZL- Swidnik designed the W-3 specifically for military and civil use in the Soviet Union.
As far as twin-engine medium helicopters go the W-3 is of a conventional design known as the “pod & boom” layout. The fuselage is made of Duralumin and the rotor blades and stabilizer are made of laminated glass fiber reinforced plastic.
The W-3 can accomodate two crew and as many as 12 passengers. There are a large number of equipment options. These include a rescue hoist, cargo hook, rappeling system and wire strike protection system. The avionics suite can also accomodate night-vision technology and FLIR.
The W-3 Sokol is powered by two WSK PZL-10W turboshaft engines. Maximum takeoff power for these engines comes to 662 kilowatts each, while 574 kilowatts of continuous power is available per engine during flight.
In terms of armaments the W-3 is equipped with with a starboard-mounted 23mm double-barrelled aircraft gun, a 12.7mm turret machine gun, Mars-2 rocket launchers, ZR-8 sub-munition dispensers and Platan mine-laying systems. W-3s have however been equipped with several different weapons over the years. These have included AT-6 Spiral anti-tank and SA-7 Grail anti-aircraft missiles. There have also been 20-mm cannons. At one time, the manufacturer partnered with Kentron of South Africa to offer an export version with weapons systems similar to those of the Denel AH-2 Rooivalk, but the partnership failed in 1994.
The flight performance of the W-3 is notable for it’s class and type. It can fly at a maximum altitude of 4520 meters and climb at a rate of 8.5 meters per second. The W-3 cruises at 250 kilometers per hour and with auziliary fuel tanks can cover a formidable 1180 kilometers.
Over 150 W-3 helicopters have been built since 1986 whe production first began. It’s primarily the Polish, Czech, Myanmar and Phillippine air forces that make use of the W-3 for various combat purposes.