Airwolf is the title character from a 1980s American television series. The aircraft itself was a modified Bell 222 twin-engined light helicopter owned by JetCopters Inc. and built by Bell Helicopter Textron.
The flying Airwolf helicopter was actually a Bell 222. The Bell 222 has two Lycoming turboshaft engines, a streamlined shape, and is available with either retractable undercarriage or fixed skids. It is usually flown single-pilot (optional dual controls are available), and can be configured for corporate/executive, EMS or utility transport missions. The aircraft can be configured for accommodations of up to 10, including pilot.
The airframe used for Airwolf was serial number 47085 (registration number N3176S). The Bell 222, sometimes unofficially called a Bell 222A, was the fifth-to-last built before the 222B was released. During filming of the series the helicopter was owned by JetCopters Inc. in Van Nuys, CA.
After the show was cancelled the modifications were removed (now owned by a private collector) from the actual helicopter. It was repainted and eventually sold to the German helicopter charter company, Hubschrauber-Sonder-Dienst (aka HSD Luftrettung and Blue Helicopter Alliance), and given the registration number D-HHSD. While operating as an air ambulance the helicopter crashed in a thunderstorm on June 6, 1992, killing its three passengers.
A new, full-size replica of the Airwolf helicopter was created for display in the Helicopter Headquarters museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee that opened in August 2006, using a non-flying Bell 222, and molds made from the originals used in the show. The museum was unsuccessful, and has offered the replica for sale through eBay.
The Airwolf helicopter
Airwolf was painted Phantom Gray Metallic (DuPont Imron 5031X) on top, and a custom pearl-gray (almost white) on the bottom, in a countershaded pattern. The craft was also fitted with various prop modifications, such as "turbo jet" engines and intakes, an in-air refueling nozzle and blister cowling on the nose, retractable chain guns at the wingtips, and a retractable rocket launcher, known as the "ADF Pod" (ADF standing for All Directional Firing, as the pod could rotate 180 degrees to fire at targets at the sides and rear of the copter) on its belly.
The look of the modifications was designed by Andrew Probert, and they were first applied to the non-flying mock-up (built from the body of the very first Bell 222, serial number 47001). From this mock-up molds were made so that parts could be made to FAA specifications before they were added to the flying helicopter.
After the first season, the producers were advised that "chain guns" is a registered trademark of McDonnell Douglas, and they were not referred to as such again. Other modifications were implied with Foley and sets; the interior sets were of a fantastical high-tech nature, and there were implied "stealth" noise-reducing capabilities with creative use of sound effects.
The concept behind Airwolf was a super fast and armed helicopter that could "blend in" by appearing to be civilian and non-military in origin- A "wolf in sheep's clothing." Airwolf's insignia patch (also designed by Probert) as worn by the flight-crew was a snarling wolf's head with gossamer wings that appears to be wearing a sheepskin complete with the head of lamb over the wolf's forehead. Airwolf is sometimes referred to in-show as "The Lady" by Santini and Hawke.
In the show, Airwolf was an armored, stealthy aircraft. It could perform impossible maneuvers and stunts, including traveling at mach speeds (the theoretical maximum speed of a helicopter is significantly below Mach 0.5, or half the speed of sound), flying upside down, and flying into the stratosphere. Some of these impossible capabilities are explained in the show by such features as auxiliary turbojet engines like those of a jet fighter (visible at the roots of the landing gear sponsons), rotor blades that can be disengaged for supersonic flight and a lifting body fuselage (a seemingly plausible claim given the shape of the Bell 222).
Sound effects were also associated with many of the aircraft's abilities. When Airwolf bolted across the sky in "turbo boost" mode, one would hear it "howl like a wolf" as it made a glass-shattering sound effect. When sitting idle, the aircraft made a mechanical trilling sound, and while hovering the rotor blades made a ghostly wind drone.
The weapons were state-of-the-art, with machine guns that could rip apart tanks and bunkers. The belly missile pod could fire a variety of rockets, including Air-to-Surface Mavericks, Hellfire and heat-seeking Sidewinders. When fired, these rockets usually glowed like a laser bolt or "photon torpedo" from Star Trek. Airwolf was also equipped with an advanced computer system which could identify and track aircraft and ground vehicles. It could display 3D wireframe models and schematics of its targets. The communications system could eavesdrop on radio and telephone conversations, tap into and foul up computer systems, jam enemy transmission frequencies and disrupt ground-based electrical systems. The stealth systems were capable of rendering Airwolf invisible to radar, as well as producing multiple radar returns (Demonstrated in the "Moffett's Ghost" episode). The weapons system could be tied in with the communications system to lock the missiles onto any monitored electronic system. Though never used in the show, Airwolf was also capable of carrying "nuclear-tipped Shrike missiles". In the first episode, a nuclear Bullpup missile was launched from Airwolf against an American destroyer while the helicopter was being used by its in-story inventor, Doctor Charles Henry Moffet.
In one episode ("Airwolf II"), Airwolf had an evil twin, the Airwolf II, also known as Redwolf. The Redwolf was built by The Firm to replace Airwolf, but was stolen and flown by an egotistical test-pilot rival of Stringfellow Hawke's called Harlan Jenkins. Redwolf differed from Airwolf in that its underbelly was painted red (where Airwolf' was painted pearl-grey). It was also equipped with a powerful laser weapon. By the end of the episode, Redwolf was destroyed by Airwolf. Season 4 also featured a similar copter to the Redwolf, known as the Scorpion. This copter was also destroyed by Airwolf (though the footage of the dogfighting was recycled from the "Airwolf II" episode).
Airwolf vs. Bell 222
Bell 222 "Airwolf"
Crew 2 (pilot & copilot) 2-3 (pilot(s) & weapons technician)
Passengers 5–6 1-2 (non-crew may use the copilot seat
and/or a seat behind the technician's seat)
Length 49.54 ft (15.1 m)
Height 11.68 ft (3.56 m)
Weight 4,555 lb (2,066 kg) unspecified
Speed 149 mph (240 km/h) 345 mph (555 km/h) conventional
Mach 1.5 with turbo thrusters
Mach 2 max speed
Range 373 mi (600 km) 950-1450 mi (1529-2334 km)
Ceiling 12,800 ft (3,901 m) 11,000 ft (3,353 m) unpressurized
89,000 ft (30,482 m) pressurized
Power (x2) 618 hp (461 kW) unspecified
Airwolf's “Design Specs”
(See talk page for sources)
Speed 300 knots/555 km/h (conventional)
Mach 1.5 (turbo thrusters)
Mach 2 (max speed)
Range 950 miles (armed crew of 3)
1,450 miles long range (crew of 2)
Midair refuel capable
Flight Ceiling 11,000 feet unpressurized
89,000 feet pressurized
Wing Guns 30 mm Cannon (×2)
.50 BMG Chain gun (×4)
Firing up to 40 rounds per sec.
ADF Pod FIRST SEASON
AGM-12 Bullpup missiles (×2)
AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles (×12)
AIM-95 Agile missiles (×4)
AGM-45 Shrike missiles (×?)
SECOND – FOURTH SEASONS
M712 Copperhead shells (×?)
FIM-43 Redeye missiles (×?)
AGM-65 Maverick missiles (×?)
AGM-114 Hellfire missiles (×?)
Defense Sunburst anti-missile Flares (×10)
Bullet-proof armoured fuselage
Learning flight/combat computer
* The ADF pod's missile tubes were only large enough to carry the Redeye missiles (FIM-92 Stinger is the modern equivalent). For example, Airwolf is about 13 meters long (42 ft), and a typical Maverick, Shrike or Sidewinder missile is about 3 meters long (10 ft), about 1/4th the length of Airwolf. Actual 40 mm cannon would be about the same size, which is why aircraft, especially helicopters, do not carry them, except for small, short range 40 mm grenade launchers.
* In Andrew Probert's original concept sketches, the AIM-26 Falcon (about 6 feet long with a 2 feet wingspan), was proposed to be mounted in hatches on either side of the ADF pod. The idea was rejected by the studio. While these capabilities were never displayed in the series, the proposed features could explain the scripting of larger missile capability. However footage in the pilot clearly shows a "large missile" (i.e. greater length than the practical limit of the ADF pod) being fired from the ADF pod (the Bullpup missile fired at the US Destroyer). A possible but also highly unlikely explanation would be that Airwolf uses tailor made versions of these missiles. Waist guns, just aft of the camera section, were also rejected, due to practical reasons.
* With a fuselage height of about 2 meters (6 ft),it is dubious that Airwolf could carry the larger fin missiles such as the AGM-45 Shrike, AGM-12 Bullpup, and the proposed AIM-26 Falcon, which had wingspans of about 0.6 to 0.9 meters (2 to 3 ft). Storing these internally, let alone 12 large AIM or AGM missiles, instead of the smaller Redeyes, would mean no crew areas, and would exceed the practical limit of the fuselage, let alone the ADF pod. Ammunition feed from the fuselage, through the turbojet engines, then through the landing gear, to the guns in wing stubs, no matter what size caliber, was equally dubious.
AIRWOLF was originally conceived and designed to look like an extraordinary executive helicopter-- nothing more. This would allow it normal airport exposure without people suspecting or comprehending its true military capabilities. It is, as its insignia suggests, a wolf in sheep's clothing.
AIRWOLF is a long-range supersonic multi role helicopter. It's an aerodynamic lifting body with a rotor system, driven by twin turbines, capable of propelling it to three hundred knots. This rotor system can be disengaged to ignite two turbo-thrust boosters, which can increase AIRWOLF'S speed to exceed mach two from sea level to 85,000 feet. AIRWOLF can rapidly slow itself by employing a reverse thruster system. Also, in some instances, AIRWOLF can deploy a drag chute (when the rotors are not engaged) which issues from a compartment in the tail.
AIRWOLF'S basic construction is of epoxy composites-reinforced with boron and graphite fibers. The crew compartment is additionally protected with honeycomb-structured lead paneling. Other major components are made of "rapid solidification aluminum castings", helping to keep the weight down. This is all skinned with ultra-thin energy-absorbing (bullet-proof) shielding.
The center of each landing gear wheel contains a small high-torque electric motor capable of propelling the aircraft on its own.
AIRWOLF'S powerful main rotor creates a hazardous downwash situation distressful to other close-flying aircraft and is capable (at low altitudes) of actually blowing over cars.
Crew members are automatically (and constantly) "monitored" for physical and neurological stress via a small device on the left side of the flight suit chest piece (physical), and through the helmet (neurological).
O.B.O.G.S.- ON BOARD OXYGEN-GENERATION SYSTEM
Creates air suitable for respiration. This enters the cabin systems from the engine- where it has been purified by heat. It is then filtered for hazardous particles and cooled for breathing.
The cabin (which is fully pressurized) can be instantly vented should the atmosphere become contaminated. Flight suit systems automatically take over if there is a cabin pressure failure.
D.E.E.C - DIGITAL ENGINE ELECTRONIC CONTROL
Fine-tunes the engine at all times and prescribes optimum engine adjustments for most efficient operations. Works with the pilot through his throttle settings (tells him what to do).
Fiber-optic cable supplants electrical circuitry as the data link between computers and flight controls.
Located behind Santini, this area is normally utilized to support the "missile loading rack" that supplies the ADF pod. With this rack removed, the bay can be used for personnel transport (4-crowded), a small dirt bike, supplies to be dropped, cargo, extra fuel units, some new weapon or a sky-diver. An overhead winch and cable provides rescue capabilities, supply pick-ups, etc., while hovering.
NOTE: Entry and exit to this area are via AIRWOLF's rear doors-with access to crew compartment.
In an emergency, flight command can be transferred from the cockpit back to the Electronic Data Command Center. In other words, AIRWOLF can be piloted by Santini - in the rear.
A.S.P.J.- ADVANCED SELF PROTECTION JAMMER
A radar-jamming system that sweeps ahead of the aircraft.
DOPPLER VELOCITY SENSORS
Monitors all in-coming missiles.
T.A.D.S. - TARGET ACQUISITION AND DESIGNATION SYSTEM
After scanning a target, TADS matches its computerized information and displays it to the crew.
Every aircraft broadcasts an I.D. code which is picked up by the I.F.F. The computer identifies it and displays the code next to the appropriate radar image.
F.L.I.R. - FOREWARD-LOOKING INFRARED
Forward sweeping system that constructs an image of what's ahead for the pilot in poor visibility.
Incorporates the most advanced type of radar called: 'SYNTHETIC APERTURE RADAR". (No information available)
Incorporates the Global Positioning System - G.P.S. (Navstar satellite)
Detects and discriminates various heat levels of targets. Reads anything from infrared to ultraviolet.
This system scans the target and discriminates various levels of atomic or molecular density. Once the computer "understands" the structure, it can produce an image of from any angle.
High to low frequency detection, wide/narrow reception, reception, locking and tracking ability.
Day and night sensitivity, zoom with limited pan and tilt, target locking and tracking ability.
Monitors all broadcasts and media: radio, TV and CB. Target locking and tracking ability.
Virtually every function and system can be 'recorded" (audio/visual) on AIRWOLF'S new COMPACT disc SYSTEM. This is a laser-disc system, utilizing a five-inch disc. While on playback, the system can be scanned or freeze-framed and can present several levels of information simultaneously, simply by skipping between multiple tracks (or bands) on the disc. If a "hard copy" is desired of particular information, the operator (pressing the appropriate button) can obtain an instant transparency or print that issues from the machine.
SUNBURST DECOYS - Flares ejected rearward to attract heat seeking missiles.
CHAFF DECOYS - Canisters ejected rearward that explode, showering bits of aluminum to confuse radar-guided missiles.
NOTE: These systems are stored together and launched from the rear of AIRWOLF'S avionics bays )port/starboard).
Venetian blinding the exhaust emissions.
Produces omnidirectional radiation of infrared energy to disable IR tracking. An automatic system that needs no missile approach warning. It snaps on when scanned by IR detectors.
Produces multi-leveled decoy signals to confuse radar.
Four 30-millimeter machine guns (2 per wing pod). Rounds fired per minute - variable.
Two 40-millimeter cannon (1 per wing pod). Rounds fired per minute - variable.
NOTE: Shell casings ejected from these weapons are recovered and retained until landing.
MISSILES: ADF Pod-launched
HELLFIRE -- 6 Short-raged air-to-surface.
REDEYE -- 12 Short-ranged air-to-air.
COPPERHEAD -- 6 long-ranged air-to-surface (tank-buster). These are carried in the loading-rack which is mounted in the rear bay of AIRWOLF. They are gravity-fed into their launcher: The ADF Pod (located: centerline underbelly).
NOTE: The ADF Pod is now capable of 180 degree rotation port/starboard. This provides the ability to fly past a target and fire laterally at it. To reload, however, it must return to its normal forward position.
NOTE ALSO: The ADF Pod cannot be deployed at speeds above 300 knots.
FALCON -- 4 Long-ranged air-to-air missiles carried two to a side in compartments at either side of the ADF Pod. They are self-guided or manually guided.
NOTE: After launch, any missile can be aborted in flight