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AW159 Lynx Wildcat

The AW159 Lynx Wildcat (rather than just plain Wildcat to avoid confusion with the legendary WW2 Naval fighter) might look like its predecessor – and possess many of its outstanding characteristics, but it will be leaps ahead in so many ways. The AW159 Lynx Wildcat is the latest twin-engine multi-role, maritime and utility aircraft developed from the extremely successful AgustaWestland Lynx family of helicopters that has successfully met the needs of many operators for more than thirty years. Designated the Lynx Wildcat by the UK MOD, the AW159 is the multi-role helicopter chosen by the British Army and Royal Navy to replace the Lynx helicopter and to meet maritime combatant and land utility and reconnaissance requirements. Also available to the international marketplace, the AW159 provides a unique and significant upgrade in terms of operational capability when compared to other aircraft in its class.

The AW159 builds upon the heritage of the Super Lynx 300 and Lynx family of helicopters that, for more than 35 years has successfully met the demanding operational needs of 15 nations in both the maritime and land environments. The AW159 provides enhanced performance and operational capability with an increase in maximum all up mass to 6 tonnes. This provides a significant upgrade in terms of lift and operational effect, when compared with other aircraft in its class. AW159 also offers improved reliability and lower life-cycle costs. Designed for all-weather operations and with the latest systems that provide low pilot workload, reliability and ease of maintenance, the AW159 can deliver an advanced day/ night all weather, network enabled capability to find, fix and strike - with integration into any digital battle space or theater of operation.

The AW159 is equipped with a comprehensive and highly capable integrated avionics suite that enables advanced navigation, communication, theatre integration and stores management functionality. The fully integrated digital cockpit provides an increased mission capability with a reduction of aircrew workload. The helicopter is equipped with a sophisticated suite of mission sensors, including, Active Electronic Scanned Array (AESA) radar; Active Dipping Sonar (ADS) for the naval variant; Electro Optical Device (EOD) for imaging and target designation; Electronic Support Measures (ESM) and an integrated Defence Aids Suite (DAS). The AW159 is a purpose built military aircraft with a fully marinised airframe that has been designed for all environments, including the harsh sea conditions associated with ship borne operations, and equipped with modern systems designed to provide low crew workload, reliability and ease of maintenance. With its unmatched agility and ability to rapidly change roles, coupled with the latest avionics, communications and mission suite, the network enabled AW159 provides the user with an advanced day/night all weather capability. The AW159 is a significant force multiplier.

With its multi-role design and unique ability to integrate into the smallest frigates and offshore patrol vessels/corvettes, the AW159 will provide added utility and effect to any maritime operator. Able to operate worldwide in all environments, the AW159 will significantly extend the area capability and operational effect of its host maritime platform. The aircraft has the ability to autonomously detect, identify and engage surface, land and sub-surface targets. Armament options include air to surface missiles, torpedoes, depth charges, air to ground rockets, cannon and heavy machine gun.

The utility version of AW159, in common with the naval version has a fully marinised airframe and provisions for a range of mission and utility equipments which enable a true multi-role capability. With a spacious cabin and two large doors, for easy egress and unloading, the AW159 is capable of carrying and deploying a wide range of troop, equipment or weapon payloads including heavy machine gun and air-to-surface rockets. Exceptional agility enables the aircraft to operate tactically, flying nap of the earth profiles while the proven CTS800 engines provide the AW159 with unrivalled hot and high performance. Additionally, the AW159 offers air manoeuvre for command and control of specialist teams, counter-terrorism tasks, close battle casualty evaluation and additional command and control.

Wildcat is the latest generation of multi role helicopter specifically procured to operate from the Frigates and Destroyers of the Royal Navy. Designed as the next-generation Lynx – the world’s fastest and most agile helicopter, it underwent testing at the Augusta-Westland production facility in Yeovil, prior to the first delivery to the Royal Navy. Wildcat takes the very best features of the existing Fleet Air Arm Lynx – and gives it extra punch. The engines are considerably more powerful providing much improved performance when operating in hot environments and at high altitudes. A completely redesigned tail, which is the greatest visual difference between old and new, also allows for a more powerful tail rotor system, as well as improving the aircrafts strength and stealth qualities with its ‘diamond’ profile. Aircrew also enjoy a much-improved cabin, from state-of-the-art cockpit instruments, hi-tech communications, to crash worthy armoured seats which drastically enhance survivability in the event of a crash landing. Cutting-edge targeting systems, similar to the Apache gunship, and a 360° full-color surveillance radar, will help crew pick out their prey and if necessary engage them with two new missiles systems specifically being developed for use on the aircraft.

Wildcat will, like its predecessor, be earmarked for a variety of roles – anti-ship, anti-submarine, ship protection, casualty evacuation, battlefield reconnaissance and general utility, but it will bear the suffix HMA, which stands for ‘Helicopter Maritime Attack’. A Naval Air Squadron – 700W (W for Wildcat) has already formed at RNAS Yeovilton to pave the way for the new helicopter’s entry into service with front-line units, the first of which will form in January 2015.

Royal Navy aviation soared into the future 12 July 2012 as the Defence Secretary unveiled the first of a new fleet of Wildcat helicopters and confirmed a £250m support package. The first of 62 Wildcats – set to replace the Lynx Mk 8 at 815NAS – was officially handed over to the MOD at the Farnborough International Airshow by manufacturer AgustaWestland. Of the 62 Wildcats – the Army will have 34 while the Navy takes on 28 which have been modified to a maritime attack variant although both types will be based at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton. The Naval variant is capable of supporting the fleet at sea and in the longer term will carry Mk11 Depth Charges and the Sting Ray torpedo. The first of the Wildcats to be handed over to the MOD are the Army helicopters, which will come into service in 2014. The first Royal Navy variants are due to be delivered for training later this year before coming into service in 2015.

The Army and Navy variants are similar but have been slightly adapted in terms of the job we are deployed to do. The nose wheels are different as the Navy lands on ships while moving at sea whereas the Army are on heavy terrain. The Navy has a radar to prosecute targets at sea whereas the Army Wildcat has a system to link it with other aircraft such as an Apache. Both have a general purpose and heavy machine gun but the Navy will also have a missile.

Although Wildcat looks like the final variant of the Lynx, the Mk8, currently in service with the Fleet Air Arm, it is classed as a new aircraft – it handles differently for a start, not least thanks to new engines and the distinctive tail boom which marks Wildcat out from its forebears. The Army variant of Wildcat will perform a range of tasks on the battlefield including reconnaissance, command and control, transportation of troops and material, and the provision of force protection. With the new Rolls-Royce CTS800-4N engines it will be significantly more powerful than the current Lynx enabling it to operate in extreme hot conditions and high altitudes.

The aircraft will have a high degree of commonality and will be able to switch between Army and Royal Navy roles, principally through the changing of role equipment. Their capability will be a significant advance on that provided in both Iraq and Afghanistan by the current Lynx fleet. The procurement of the Rolls Royce CTS800-4N engine will also be extended to the existing Lynx Mk9; due to be refitted from 2009 to 2010. The CTS800 Mk 9 (known as the Mk9A) will provide better performance and a much improved light multi role capability in Afghanistan given the extreme environmental conditions.

The British Army retired the AH7 version of the AgustaWestland Lynx utility helicopter in July 2015. However, the AH9 version will remain in service, with the AW159 Wildcat set to form the backbone of the next generation of Royal Navy and British Army helicopters, particularly as the Lynx AH9 retires in 2018.

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Page last modified: 04-08-2015 21:28:10 ZULU