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|WG-13 Lynx / Super Lynx|
|A British Army Lynx in 2013|
|Role||Multi-purpose military helicopter|
|National origin||United Kingdom|
|First flight||21 March 1971|
|Retired||Royal Navy: 2017|
|Primary users||British Army
Royal Navy (former)
|Number built||450 (as of 2009)|
|Variants||AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat|
|Developed into||Westland 30|
The Westland Lynx is a British multi-purpose military helicopter designed and built by Westland Helicopters at its factory in Yeovil. Originally intended as a utility craft for both civil and naval usage, military interest led to the development of both battlefield and naval variants. The Lynx went into operational usage in 1977 and was later adopted by the armed forces of over a dozen nations, primarily serving in the battlefield utility, anti-armour, search and rescue and anti-submarine warfare roles.
The Lynx has the distinction of being the world's first fully aerobatic helicopter with the ability to perform loops and rolls. In 1986, a specially modified Lynx set the current Fédération Aéronautique Internationale's official airspeed record for helicopters at 400.87 km/h, which remains unbroken as of 2016.
Several land and naval variants of the Lynx have been produced along with some major derivatives. The Westland 30 was produced as a civil utility helicopter; it did not become a commercial success and only a small number were built during the 1980s. In the 21st century, a modernised variant of the Lynx was designed as a multirole combat helicopter, designated as the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat; the Wildcat is intended to replace existing Lynx helicopters. The Lynx remains in production by AgustaWestland, the successor to Westland Helicopters.
The initial design (then known as the Westland WG.13) was started in the mid-1960s as a replacement for the Westland Scout and Wasp, and a more advanced alternative to the UH-1 Iroquois. The design was to be powered by a pair of Bristol Siddeley BS.360 turboshaft engines. As part of the Anglo-French helicopter agreement signed in February 1967, the French company Aérospatiale were given a 30 per cent production work share in the programme, Westland performing the remainder. It was intended that France would procure the Lynx for its Navy and of a heavily modified armed reconnaissance variant for the French Army, with the United Kingdom in return buying Aérospatiale Gazelle and Puma for its armed forces. In October 1969, the French Army cancelled its requirement for the Lynx, thus development work of the dedicated armed attack variant was terminated early on.
The first Lynx prototype took its maiden flight on 21 March 1971. In 1972, a Lynx broke the world speed record over 15 and 25 km by flying at 321.74 km/h (199.9 mph). It also set a new 100 km closed circuit record shortly afterwards, flying at 318.504 km/h (197.9 mph). In 1986, the former company demonstrator Lynx, registered G-LYNX, was specially modified with Gem 60 engines and British Experimental Rotor Programme (BERP) rotor blades. On 11 August 1986 the helicopter was piloted by Trevor Egginton when it set an absolute speed record for helicopters over a 15 and 25 km course by reaching 400.87 kilometres per hour (216.45 kn; 249.09 mph); an official record with the FAI it currently holds. At this speed, it had a lift-to-drag ratio of 2, and its BERP blade tips had a speed of Mach 0.97.
The British Army ordered over 100 Lynx helicopters under the designation of Lynx AH.1 (Army Helicopter Mark 1) to perform several different roles, such as transport, armed escort, anti-tank warfare (with eight TOW missiles), reconnaissance and evacuation missions. Deliveries of production helicopters began in 1977. An improved Lynx AH.1 with Gem 41-1 or Gem 42 engines and an uprated transmission was referred to as the Lynx AH.5; only five were built for evaluation. The AH.5 led to the Lynx AH.7, which added a new tail rotor derived from the Westland 30, a reinforced airframe, improved avionics and defensive aids.
The initial naval variant of the Lynx, known as the Lynx HAS.2 in British service, or Lynx Mk.2(FN) in French service, differed from the Lynx AH.1 in being equipped with a tricycle undercarriage and a deck restraint system, folding main rotor blades, an emergency flotation system and a nose-mounted radar. An improved Lynx for the Royal Navy, the Lynx HAS.3, had Gem 42-1 Mark 204 engines, an uprated transmission, a new flotation system and an Orange Crop ESM system. The Lynx HAS.3 also received various other updates in service. A similar upgrade to the French Lynx was known as the Lynx Mk.4(FN).
In September 1974, the British and Egyptian governments initiated talks to establish a new Egyptian helicopter manufacturer. Out of these talks, the Arab British Helicopter Company (ABHCO) was established during the 1970s; this new organisation was accompanied by an initial arrangement to manufacture under license the Lynx AH.1 in Helwan, Egypt. A separate agreement was formalised with Rolls-Royce to license manufacture the Lynx's Gem engines at the Helwan facility. However, this plan was ultimately aborted due to a lack of funds that had resulted from the collapse of the Arab Organization for Industrialization (AOI).
Announced in 1984, the Lynx-3 was an enhanced development, featuring a stretched fuselage, a redesigned tailboom, Gem 60-3/1 engines, a wheeled tricycle undercarriage, BERP rotor blades, and increased fuel capacity. Both Army and Naval variants were proposed; however, the project was ultimately ended in 1987 due to insufficient orders being placed. Only one Army Lynx-3 prototype was built. A development of the Lynx AH.7 with the wheeled undercarriage of the Lynx-3 was marketed by Westland as the Battlefield Lynx in the late 1980s. The prototype first flew in November 1989; deliveries began in 1991, in British Army service this variant is designated as the Lynx AH.9.
In the early 1990s, Westland incorporated some of the technology from the Naval Lynx-3 design into a less-radical Super Lynx. This featured BERP rotor blades, the Westland 30-derived tail rotor, Gem 42 engines, a new under-nose 360-degree radar installation and an optional nose-mounted electro-optical sensor turret. Royal Navy Lynx HAS.3s upgraded to Super Lynx standard were known in service as the Lynx HMA.8, and several export customers ordered new-build or upgraded Super Lynxes. From the 1990s onwards, Westland began offering the Super Lynx 200, which was equipped with LHTEC CTS800 engines, and the Super Lynx 300, which also had a new cockpit and avionics derived from the AgustaWestland EH101. Both of these models have achieved several export sales. In 2002, Flight International reported that more than 40 variants of the Lynx were in service, numbering almost 400 aircraft having been built for various customers.
The British Army and Royal Navy Lynx fleets were to be replaced to a new common advanced Lynx variant based on the Super Lynx 300, with a new tailboom, undercarriage, cockpit, avionics and sensors. Initially referred to as the Future Lynx, and later as the Lynx Wildcat, this type has since been re-designated as the AW159 Wildcat. While having the Lynx as the origins and basis of its design, the Wildcat differs substantially. Only 5% of its components, including some main rotor gearbox parts and fuel system, remain interchangeable with previous Lynx variants.
The Lynx is a multi-purpose twin-engine battlefield helicopter, of which specialized versions have been developed for both sea and land-based warfare. A distinguishing feature between early and later aircraft is the undercarriage: early Army versions of the Lynx were equipped with skids, while the Naval and later models have been outfitted with wheels, a requirement for easy ground handling on the deck of a warship. Early versions of the Lynx were powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce Gem turboshaft engines, which powered a four-blade semi-rigid main rotor.[N 1] The rotors were of a completely new design, the blades being composed of a honeycomb sandwich structure and made out of composite material. For shipboard stowage, both the rotor blades and tail can be folded. In flight, the main rotor is kept at a constant speed, simplifying aircraft control; the rotor also features a vibration absorption system.
The Lynx is an agile helicopter, capable of performing loops and rolls, and of attaining high speeds. The agility of the type led to its use as an aerial display aircraft, having been operated with by the Blue Eagles and Black Cats helicopter display teams. The efficiency of the main rotor, as well as the overall top speed of the Lynx, was substantially improved with the adoption of BERP rotor blade technology.[N 2] During the 1990s, the hot-and-high performance of the type was considerably boosted in the later Super Lynx 200 series, at which point the type's Gem engines were replaced with the newer LHTEC T800 turboshaft engine with associated FADEC system; the Lynx can also maintain a good level of performance under moderate icing conditions. The FADEC controls eliminated the requirement for a throttle or manual speed selection switches, further simplifying flight control. Later aircraft feature automatic stabilization equipment; functions such as auto-hover are optionally installed on some Lynx.
Various avionics and onboard systems are integrated on the Lynx in order to perform differing mission profiles. Several operators have equipped their Lynx with BAE Systems' Sea Spray surveillance radar to provide for a surface search capability, which is used in maritime patrol, search and rescue, and other mission profiles. British Army models are equipped with a Marconi Elliot automatic flight control system capable of performing automatic three axes stabilisation. The integration of both avionics and weapons systems is customized upon each Lynx batch to customer specifications and requirements. Most of the installed sensors and avionics are typically integrated with the aircraft's avionics management system (AMS), from where they can be managed by either pilot; sensors such the optional nose-mounted FLIR can be set up to directly cue the weapon systems. Functions such as navigation and communications are also tied into the AMS, information from these systems are displayed directly to the pilots on interchangeable integrated display units in the cockpit. The Lynx is considerably easier to service and maintain than the AgustaWestland Apache.[N 3]
The Lynx features a two-man cockpit for a pilot and observer sitting side by side; the British Army typically operates their fleet with a three-man crew, a door gunner being the third member. The cabin, located behind the cockpit, is accessed through a pair of large sliding doors on each side of the fuselage; it can accommodate up to ten equipped troops depending upon seating configuration. An alternative configuration houses radio equipment in the cabin area when the aircraft is being used in the airborne command post role; the cabin can also be used to house additional fuel tanks for conducting long distance missions and ferry trips. The Lynx can perform a wide variety of mission types, including anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare, vessel replenishment, search and rescue, airborne reconnaissance, armed attack, casualty evacuation and troop transport; according to AgustaWestland, a Lynx can be converted from one mission-type to another within the space of 40 minutes.
Typical combat equipment includes stabilised roof-mounted sensors, onboard countermeasures and door guns; when being used in the anti-tank role, the Lynx is typically armed with BGM-71 TOW missiles; missiles such as the Sea Skua have been used in the maritime anti-surface role. Additional armaments that have been interchangeably used include rockets, 20 mm cannons, torpedoes, and depth charges. Those Lynx built for export have typically outfitted with armaments and equipment customized for the end-user, such as the Mokopa air-to-surface missile used on Algeria's Lynx fleet, eight of which can be carried; studies into equipping the AGM-114 Hellfire have been performed, air-to-air missiles could also reportedly be adopted if the capability is sought by operators. Equipped armaments can be managed and controlled inflight through the onboard stores management system. In order to counteract battlefield threats such as infrared-guided missiles, various defensive aid subsystems can be optionally installed, including warning receivers and countermeasures.
Many of the Lynx's components had been derived from earlier Westland helicopters such as the Scout and Wasp. The Lynx has been substantially upgraded since originally entering service in the 1970s; improvements made to in-service aircraft have typically included strengthened airframes, new avionics and engines, improved rotor blades, additional surveillance and communications systems. Various subsystems from overseas suppliers have been incorporated into some Lynx variants; during a South Korean procurement, hulls produced in the United Kingdom were equipped with Korean-built systems, such as ISTAR, electro-optical, electronic warfare, fire-control systems, flight control actuators, and undercarriages. A glass cockpit was adopted on the Super Lynx 300, featuring fully integrated flight and mission display systems, a variety of integrated display units including head-up displays, and dual controls; AgustaWestland has commented that the new cockpit reduces aircrew workload and increases aircraft effectiveness. The head-up display installed could be replaced by a helmet-mounted sight system on customer demand.
The Lynx AH.1 entered service with the British Army′s Army Air Corps (AAC) in 1979, followed by the Lynx HAS.2 with the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) in 1981. The FAA fleet was upgraded to Lynx HAS.3 standard during the 1980s, and again to HMA.8 standard in the 1990s. Most Army aircraft were upgraded to Lynx AH.7 and the later AH.9/AH.9A standards as utility helicopters; they have also served with 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron (3 CBAS) of the Royal Marines and later, the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) of the FAA, operating as reconnaissance and attack/utility helicopters to support the Royal Marines. During the Cold War, it was envisioned that Army Lynxes would be paired with Westland Gazelle helicopters to counter Soviet armoured vehicles. Lynx HAS.3 and HMA.8 variants operate as anti-submarine warfare and maritime attack helicopters armed with Sting Ray torpedoes, Sea Skua anti-ship missiles and depth charges, from Royal Navy warships. Navy Lynx have been critical to maritime patrol operations, including non-military operations such as counter-narcotics missions.
The Lynx HAS.2 ASW variant participated in combat operations during the Falklands War in 1982. A combination of Lynx and Westland Sea King helicopters were used to maintain continuous anti-submarine patrols in order to protect the British task force offshore from the Falkland Islands. On 3 May, a Lynx conducted the first combat-firing of a Sea Skua missile, firing on the Argentinian patrol boat Alferez Sobral, inflicting considerable damage to the vessel. This was the first use of sea-skimming missiles in the conflict. Although none were shot down in combat, a total of three were lost aboard vessels that were struck by attacks from Argentine aircraft, these vessels being HMS Coventry, HMS Ardent and MV Atlantic Conveyor.
On 14 May 1989, in the type's second fatal accident, Lynx HAS3GM XZ244, attached to HMS Brilliant, crashed near Mombasa, Kenya, while en route to the city's airport for a period of shore leave. A door had detached when opened inflight and collided with the tail rotor, resulting in the aircraft splitting in half and the death of all nine personnel on board. As a result, door modifications and inflight opening restrictions were introduced. As of 2004, it remained the deadliest Lynx crash.
The Navy's Lynx helicopters were among Britain's contribution to the coalition against Saddam Hussein's Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. During the Battle of Bubiyan, the biggest naval engagement of the conflict, the Lynx and its Sea Skua missiles proved to be decisive, being responsible for the majority of individual engagements with various Iraqi Navy vessels. By 2 February 1991, 25 Sea Skuas had been launched, out of these, 18 were confirmed as having hit their targets, and had succeeding in heavily damaging a significant portion of Iraq's navy. Navy Lynxes were routinely used to deploy troops to oil platforms and into occupied Kuwait itself, as well as to perform aerial reconnaissance across the Gulf.
The British Army also deployed 24 TOW-armed Lynxes alongside an equal number of Westland Gazelle helicopters during the Gulf War. They were assigned the mission of locating and attacking Iraqi tank concentrations, and to support the advance of coalition ground forces into Kuwait and Southern Iraq during the 100 hours war phase of the conflict. On 26 February 1991, a Lynx of 654 Squadron AAC destroyed two MTLB armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and four T-55 tanks using TOW missiles: the engagement was the first recorded use of the missile from a British helicopter.
On 19 March 1994, during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, the IRA brought down Lynx AH.7 ZD275 of the AAC with an improvised mortar, striking it while attempting to land at Crossmaglen Army base. The pilot managed to crash land, the aircraft was destroyed but all crew on board survived. Author Toby Harnden described the incident as the IRA's most successful operation against a helicopter.
Various British Lynxes were used during the NATO intervention in the conflict between Serbia and Kosovo, later known as the Kosovo War. They were frequently employed to supply NATO forces inside the theatre, including those engaged in humanitarian operations. In June 1999, the type was employed to escort British ground forces being air-deployed into Kosovo via Chinooks, during NATO's first phase of deployment. For a number of years, British Army Lynx and Gazelle helicopters were deployed within Kosovo, performing reconnaissance and transport duties in support of the deployed NATO peacekeeping forces.
In September 2000, Army Lynxes were used in Sierra Leone to rescue several British soldiers during Operation Barras. In 2002, a Lynx attached to HMS Richmond crashed 200 miles off the coast of Virginia.
In March 2003, the Lynx formed the bulk of the deployed British rotary aviation battle group in the invasion of Iraq. Participating aircraft were quickly outfitted with engine sand filters, armour, heat dissipaters, modern secure radios and radar warning receivers. In the subsequent multi-national occupation force, a flight of either AAC or CHF Lynx AH.7s were based at Basra International Airport under command of the Joint Helicopter Force (Iraq) on a rotational basis. In theatre, they would escort infantry patrols, perform aerial reconnaissance, provide fire support and act as airborne communications hubs. Performance issues were encountered in the high temperature environment, often operating with no power reserve and thus no ability to overshoot during landings; these were belatedly resolved by the introduction of the Lynx AH.9A.
On 6 May 2006, Lynx AH.7 XZ6140 of the CHF, was shot down by a man-portable surface-to-air missile over Basra, southern Iraq; the first British helicopter and only the second British aircraft downed (the first was an RAF Hercules) by enemy fire in the war. Among the 5 killed were 847 Naval Air Squadron's commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Darren Chapman; Wing Commander Coxen, who had been due to take command of the region's British helicopter forces, and Flight Lieutenant Sarah-Jayne Mulvihill; Coxen was the most senior British officer to die in the conflict and Mulvihill was the first British servicewoman to die in action in 22 years. At the crash scene, British troops reportedly encountered rioting Iraqi civilians and were fired on by militia, while civilians were killed in the ensuing clashes. The crash led to a review of the vulnerability of helicopter transports in southern Iraq.
In 2006, the first Lynx AH.7 was deployed to Helmand Province, Afghanistan; this variant would only be subsequently used during winter months due to the performance limitations imposed during the high summer temperatures. The Lynx AH.9A later deployed was praised as having been a substantial performance improvement. On 26 April 2014, Lynx AH.9A ZF540 of the Army Air Corps, crashed near Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan, killing the 3 crew and 2 passengers on board. This was the first fatal accident in the conflict involving a British military helicopter and the third largest loss of life of British troops in a single incident in Afghanistan since 2001.
The Royal Navy's Lynx is to retire its Lynx helicopters from active service on 23 March 2017 with its official decommissioning. On 17 March, a final flypast of four Royal Navy Westland Lynx HMA8 helicopters from 815 Naval Air Squadron, based at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset took place.
The first German Navy Lynx, a Sea Lynx Mk88 model, was manufactured in 1981. A total of 19 were built. In 1996, the German Navy elected to purchase seven additional Super Lynx Mk88As; in 1998, the decision was taken to upgrade the existing Mk88 fleet, by then numbering a total of 17, to the improved Mk88A standard. In the anti-surface role, Germany's Lynx fleet were supplemented by several Westland Sea Kings, which were upgraded with Sea Skua missiles in the 1990s. In 2009, Germany was studying a limited upgrade programme for their Super Lynx fleet which reportedly included the replacement of the current anti-ship missile. In 2013, the German defence ministry signed a contract with Selex ES to integrate new electro-optical/infrared sensors onto the Super Lynx.
Since 2012, German Lynx have been deployed routinely off the coast of Somalia to discourage and intervene against acts of piracy as a part of the multinational Operation Atalanta. In September 2014, 15 of the navy's 22-strong Sea Lynx Mk88A fleet were temporarily grounded following the discovery of fuselage cracks on some aircraft. The German Defense Ministry estimated that the Sea Lynx fleet will return to full strength in early 2015. In the long term, the German Navy is to retire the Super Lynx in favour of the larger and newer NHIndustries NH90.
The Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) of South Korea took delivery of the first batch of 12 Mk.99 Lynx helicopters in 1990; a second batch of 13 Mk.99A Super Lynx helicopters began delivery in 1999. The first Lynx batch was later upgraded to the same standard as the second batch; the changes included the adoption of a new radar, FLIR, and ESM systems. In 2013, South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration announced its selection of the AW159 Wildcat; deliveries of eight aircraft are planned for 2015–16; these will be used for search and rescue, anti-submarine warfare and surveillance missions.
In May 2009, a ROKN Lynx successfully protected a North Korean freighter from pursuing pirates off the coast of Somalia. In 2010, South Korea's Lynx fleet was temporarily grounded for emergency inspections following the crashes of two aircraft within the same week. Shortly afterwards it was discovered that the ROKN's helicopters had been victim to a maintenance scam, involving the falsified documentation and faked replacement of components; by 2011, 12 employees of two South Korean private companies had been jailed, two ROKN officers were indicted, and several other officers were to be remanded as a result.
In 1979, the Lynx Mk.2(FN) entered service with the French Naval Aviation of the French Navy, a total of 26 aircraft would be procured. Upon entering service, the French Lynx was more capable of performing independent anti-submarine operations than its Royal Navy counterpart, a single aircraft being capable of simultaneously being equipped for detection and weapon delivery roles. In February 2011, a French Lynx landed on the flight deck of a FREMM multipurpose frigate for the first time as a part of qualifying trials. In addition to France's own Lynx fleet, French Navy vessels have also hosted British Lynx helicopters, such as during an extended counter-piracy deployment on board the La Fayette-class frigate Surcouf during 2012.
The Royal Netherlands Navy's (RNN) Naval Aviation Service operated fleet of 24 Lynx for a total of 36 years, entering service in 1976 and phased out in 2012 after being extensively used. These performed search and rescue, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and special forces support tasks while operating from the flightdecks of most RNN vessels during this period. In 1993, the RNN fleet were upgraded to a common Lynx SH-14D standard. In 1999, a design defect in the rotor-head used on some Lynx aircraft was responsible for the loss of a Dutch aircraft in 1999; this led to a number of Lynx worldwide to be temporarily grounded until retrofitted with new titanium rotor-heads. On 28 February 2011, a Dutch Lynx and three navy personnel were captured by Libyan forces while performing an evacuation mission inside the country. On 19 September 2012, the RNN performed its final operational Lynx flight.
The Portuguese Naval Aviation of the Portuguese Navy exclusively operates the Super Lynx Mk.95. In 1990, Portugal signed a contract for a total of five Super Lynx, two of them being refurbished ex-Royal Navy aircraft. A total of two Lynx can be operated from the flight deck of a single Vasco da Gama-class frigate; they typically accompany the vessels, including during long distance deployments for anti-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa.
In 1978, the Brazilian Navy became the first foreign operator of the Lynx helicopter, having taken delivery of its first of a batch of five that year. During the 1990s, the fleet was more than doubled by the acquisition of a further batch of nine. During overseas deployments for multinational training exercises and United Nations operations, the Lynx has been described as "eyes and the ears of the fleet". In 2009, Brazil deployed several Lynx in an effort to locate the missing Air France Flight 447. In 2014, a mid-life upgrade process was agreed for Brazil's Lynx fleet, they shall receive LHTEC CTS800-4N engines, new avionics, satellite navigation systems, countermeasures, and night vision-compatible cockpit displays.
The Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF) received its six Lynx Mk 86 in 1981. 337 Squadron was reactivated at Bardufoss and declared operational with Lynx in 1983. RNoAF operates the aircraft with the Norwegian Coast Guard's Nordkapp-class offshore patrol vessels. In 2010, one Lynx reached the end of its operational life and was withdrawn from service; a second aircraft suffered a non-fatal crash in 1988 and was totally rebuilt by Westland. The Lynx was to have been progressively replaced by the NH90 from 2005 onwards; however, deliveries of the new type suffered multiple delays, leading to Norway considering life extension measures on some of their Lynx fleet.
The Royal Danish Navy (RDN) took delivery of eight Lynx Mk 80 between 1980 and 1981. A further two Mk 90 were delivered in 1987 and 1988 as attrition replacements. Operated by the Danish Naval Air Squadron, the RDN fleet is typically stationed upon naval inspection vessels and used to patrol Greenland and Faroe Islands as well as the Danish mainland. Beginning in 2000, the whole Lynx fleet was upgraded to Mk 90B standard. On 7 November 2006, a Danish Lynx had the distinction of performing the first helicopter landing on board a Visby-class corvette of the Swedish Navy. In January 2011, control of the Lynx fleet was transferred from the Danish Navy to the Royal Danish Air Force.
NOTES: AH=Army Helicopter, HAS=Helicopter, Anti-Submarine, HMA=Helicopter, Maritime Attack, IFF=Identification Friend or Foe, (GM)=Gulf Modification, (S)=Secure speech radio, and SIFF=Successor to IFF.
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