David Cenciotti, the blogger behind the Aviationist, has brought our attention to the AgustaWestland AW101 – one of the major toys in the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall. The helicopter, known as “Merlin” in aviation circles, is used by Bond’s enemy but its also being used by the militaries of several countries around the world, including the UK. In addition, the movie also featured an AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat which has been ordered for the British Army and Royal Navy.
According to Wikipedia, the AgustaWestland AW101’s origins date back to 1977 when the UK Ministry of Defence issued a requirement for an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter to replace the Royal Navy’s Westland Sea Kings. The helicopter was then jointly developed by Westland Helicopters in the UK and Agusta in Italy as well as manufactured in facilities located in Yeovil (south Somerset) and Vergiate (Italy). The AW101 ultimately replaced many older helicopters like the Sikorsky S-61 for medium-sized transport and anti-submarine warfare roles.
The AgustaWestland AW159’s origins date back to 2002 and its an improved version of the Westland Super Lynx military helicopter. Its intended roles include battlefield utility, search and rescue and anti-surface warfare.
AgustaWestland itself is playing up the James Bond connection with a dedicated page on its website that notes the aircraft in the movie were flown by their test pilots and filming required very precise flying due to the proximity to the film set and camera helicopter. In fact, 15 hours were spent rehearsing and shooting the scenes involving the helicopters and they have even put together the following video posted on the AgustaWestland YouTube video channel: