Future Lynx

AW159 Wildcat
Wildcat prototype airframe ZZ401
Role Utility, SAR and ASuW helicopter
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer AgustaWestland
First flight 12 November 2009[1]
Primary users British Army (future)
Royal Navy (future)
Developed from Westland Super Lynx

The AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat (previously called the Future Lynx and Lynx Wildcat) is an improved version of the Westland Super Lynx military helicopter. The AW159 will serve in the battlefield utility, search and rescue and anti-surface warfare roles. The helicopter has been ordered for the Royal Navy and British Army. It is to enter service with the Army in 2014 and with the Royal Navy in 2015.[2]

Development

The Future Lynx project originated in two studies in 2002 to determine the suitability of a derivative of the Super Lynx 300 to replace the existing Lynx helicopters of the Royal Navy and British Army. These requirements were known as the Surface Combatant Maritime Rotorcraft (SCMR) and Battlefield Light Utility Helicopter (BLUH) programmes, respectively.[3] The utility transport aspect of the BLUH requirement was subsequently de-emphasised and the programme renamed Battlefield Reconnaissance Helicopter (BRH).[4]

On 22 June 2006, the UK Ministry of Defence awarded AgustaWestland a £1 billion contract for 70 Future Lynx helicopters as a commitment under the Strategic Partnering Arrangement with AgustaWestland. The programme envisaged providing the British Army with 40 aircraft and Royal Navy with 30, with an option for a further 10, split equally between Army and Navy.[5] In December 2008 the MoD announced that this contract would go ahead with the order reduced to 62.[6] By mid-2009, the cost of the programme had increased to £1.7 billion.[7]

On 24 April 2009, it was announced that the Future Lynx had been designated AW159 by AgustaWestland,[2] and would be known in British military service as the Wildcat.[8] The first Lynx Wildcat took the type's maiden flight from Yeovil on 12 November 2009,[1] with initial deliveries of the type expected in 2011. The second AW159 first flew on 14 October 2010,[9] and a third helicopter joined the flight testing on 19 November 2010.[10]

In December 2011, it was reported that four additional Wildcats had been ordered for use by British special forces. These are to be joined by four from the current fleet on order, for a total of eight aircraft to operate as Wildcat Light Assault Helicopters.[11]

Design

The AW159 Wildcat is the successor to, and a further development of, the Westland Lynx.[12] While the AW159 shares broad similarities in appearance to the Lynx, it has significant design differences and is heavily modernised and adapted to gain new attributes and functionality;[12] the AW159 comprises 95% new components; the remaining 5%, consisting of such items as the fuel system and main rotor gearbox, are interchangeable with the Lynx AH7 and HMA8 variants.[13] The AW159 is the first helicopter by AgustaWestland to be designed inside an entirely digital environment.[12] Among other changes, certain external elements of the Wildcat, such as the tail rotor, have been redesigned for greater durability and stealth qualities.[12]

Both Army and Navy variants are based on a common airframe, which is suitable for marine use and equipped with a wheeled undercarriage. The AW159 is powered by two 1,362 hp (1,016 kW) LHTEC CTS800 turboshaft engines, and has a new composite tailboom, tailplane, tail rotor, nose structure and avionics suite. The naval version is also equipped with a SELEX Galileo Seaspray 7000E active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.[4] The AW159 is reported to have significant ISTAR capabilities and improved situational awareness through the onboard integrated digital open systems architecture; it has been equipped with the Bowman communications system, allowing for data such as targeting and voice communications to be securely and seamlessly transmitted to friendly forces.[12]

Operational history

United Kingdom

The UK is to initially receive 34 Wildcats for the British Army and 28 for the Royal Navy. The Army variant is to enter operational service in 2014, with the RN variant following in 2015.[14]

The Royal Navy commissioned a Wildcat Fielding Squadron, known as 700W Naval Air Squadron (700W NAS)[15] in 2009. The Army Air Corps also formed the Wildcat Fielding Team. Both units are located at RNAS Yeovilton.

In February 2012, a prototype Wildcat (airframe ZZ402) conducted 20 days of trials aboard HMS Iron Duke off the coasts of England and Scotland. The trials were designed to test the helicopter in challenging weather conditions, test its onboard systems and define the Wildcat's ship-helicopter operating limits for when the helicopter enters service in 2015. During the trials 390 deck landings were completed, including 148 night landings.[16]

In January 2013, it was reported that the Royal Navy will receive 28 maritime attack variant helicopters; these are to begin operations in 2015. The British Army will receive 34 Wildcats[17][18]

South Korea

On 15 January 2013, South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration announced the selection of the AW159 to fulfill the Republic of Korea Navy's requirement for a maritime helicopter, winning out against the MH-60R Seahawk. Deliveries of eight aircraft are planned for 2015-16; these will be used for search-and-rescue missions, anti-submarine warfare and surveillance.[19]

Operators

 United Kingdom
 South Korea

Specifications (AW159)

Data from Future Lynx brochure,[22] AW159 page[23]

General characteristics
  • Crew: 2 pilots
  • Capacity: 7 passengers, including door gunner
  • Length: 15.24 m (50 ft 0 in)
  • Height: 3.73 m (12 ft 3 in)
  • Max takeoff weight: 6,000 kg (13,228 lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 × LHTEC CTS800-4N turboshaft, 1,015 kW (1,361 hp) each
  • Main rotor diameter: 12.8 m (42 ft 0 in)
  • Main rotor area: 128.7 m2 (1,385 sq ft)

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 291 km/h (181 mph; 157 kn)
  • Range: 777 km (483 mi; 420 nmi)
  • Ferry range: 963 km (598 mi; 520 nmi)
  • Endurance: 1 hr 30 min (4 hr 30 min with auxiliary fuel)
Armament
  • Forward firing CRV7 rockets and machine guns,
  • Pintle mounted machine gun, e.g. FN MAG (Army) or Browning M2 (Navy).
  • Air-to-Surface Missile systems:

    • Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Light). Thales Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM)[24]
    • Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Heavy). Physically similar replacement for the Sea Skua with twice the range and a larger 40kg warhead. Combined design with France's Anti-Navire Léger. To disable or destroy vessels up to 1000 tonne, up to eight could be carried by the Lynx Wildcat. Entry into service about 2015.[25]
    • Sting Ray torpedo and depth charges

    See also

    Related development
    Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

    Related lists

    References

    External links

    External video
    Inflight video of AW159
    • AW159 page on AgustaWestland.com
    • "UK commits to Future Lynx helicopter". Flight International, 29 March 2005.
    • "UK's Future Lynx programme moves into manufacturing phase". Flightglobal.com, 9 Oct. 2007.
    • "UK cuts Future Lynx deal, delays new carriers". Flight International, 12 Dec. 2008.
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