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The PZL Swidnik W-3 Sokol medium transport helicopter has a great number of subvariants

In 1979, with nearly 20 years experience of building Mil-designed helicopters behind it, Poland’s PZL Swidnik flew the first prototype of a new design designated W-3 and named Sokol (falcon). There was a long series of tethered tests and extensive design changes before the second prototype flew in May 1982, and it was another three years before production began. Since then, PZL has developed several specialized variants for military and civil applications.

By 1996 PZL had completed more than 80 production W-3s, including 12 for Myanmar. Others were built for the Polish armed forces and government agencies, and included naval, fire-fighting and search and rescue (SAR) models. Recently Philippines ordered 8 Polish W-3 helicopters.

Early versions of the W-3 Sokol were operated by a crew of 3, including pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer. On newer versions the flight engineer is no longer required.

In its basic transport form, the W-3 can carry 12 passengers on removable seats. The helicopter can be used to carry cargo or stretchers as an alternative to seated passengers.

This Polish helicopter is powered by two WSK-PZL Rzeszow PZL-10W turbochafts, each rated at 900 shp. The engines have a 30 minute emergency rating of 1 000 shp.

Known as the Anakonda, the W-3RM is a rescue variant with flotation bags, a watertight cabin and a winch. It accommodates 8 survivors and 2 attendants. The W-3U-1 Alligator was proposed for the anti-submarine role, but the planned W-3 Sokol-Long, with a stretch fuselage seating up to 14 fully armed troops, was discontinued in 1993.

W-3s have been fitted with several different ωɛλρσɳs, including Shturm-V (Western reporting name AT-6 or Spiral) anti-tank missiles and Strela-2 (Western reporting name SA-7 or Grail) anti-aircraft missiles, 20 mm and 23 mm cannon, and rocket launchers. At one stage, the manufacturer teamed with Kentron of South Africa to offer an export version with ωɛλρσɳs systems similar to those of the Denel AH-2 Rooivalk, but the partnership failed in 1994.

A US company Rockwell has proposed a Westernized version of the W-3W with upgraded avionics, electronic ωλɾʄλɾɛ and targeting systems, and equipped with Hellfire anti-tank guided missiles.

Only one example of the armed W-3WB Huzar has been completed. It is a version of W-3A. W-3PL Gluszec is another armed version of the W-3 Sokol. It is an assault transport helicopter, intended for carrying troops and and supporting them with its firepower. Development contract was signed in 2003. Initial batch of 4 helicopters was delivered to the Polish military in 2010. These were W-3 helicopters upgraded to the W-3PL Gluszec standard. The helicopter has a small nose turret, armed with a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun. It can carry other ωɛλρσɳs, such as 23 mm cannons.