AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat

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AW159 Wildcat
AgustaWestland AW-159 Lynx Wildcat AH1 - Chris Lofting.jpg
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 designed to serve in the battlefield utility, search and rescue and anti-surface warfare roles. In British service, common variants are being operated by both the Royal Navy and British Army to replace their old Lynx rotorcraft. The AW159 has also been offered to export customers, the Republic of Korea Navy becoming the first in 2013.

Development[edit]

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.[2] The utility transport aspect of the BLUH requirement was subsequently de-emphasised and the programme renamed Battlefield Reconnaissance Helicopter (BRH).[3]

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.[4] In October 2007, the program proceeded to the manufacturing phase.[5] On 24 April 2009, it was announced that the Future Lynx had been designated AW159 by AgustaWestland,[6] and would be known in British military service as the Wildcat.[7]

An AW159 Wildcat flying alongside a Lynx, its predecessor, July 2014

The first Lynx Wildcat made the type's maiden flight from Yeovil on 12 November 2009,[1] with initial deliveries of the type beginning in 2011. The second AW159 first flew on 14 October 2010,[8] and a third helicopter joined the flight testing on 19 November 2010.[9] In July 2009, it was announced that the cost of the programme had increased to £1.7 billion.[10]

In December 2008, the MoD announced that the main contract would be proceeding with a minor cut for a total of 62.[11] 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.[12]

Design[edit]

The AW159 Wildcat is the successor to, and a further development of, the Westland Lynx.[13] 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.[13] 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.[14] The AW159 is the first helicopter by AgustaWestland to be designed inside an entirely digital environment.[13] Among other changes, certain external elements of the Wildcat, such as the tail rotor, have been redesigned for greater durability and stealth qualities.[13]

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.[3] In June 2014, the Royal Navy awarded Thales Group a £48 million contract to deliver the Lightweight Multirole Missile for the Wildcat under the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapons Light (FASGW (L)) program for target such as small boats and fast attack craft, replacing the Sea Skua. Additionally, a March 2014 contract to MBDA for the FASGW Heavy/Anti-Navire Leger (ANL) missile for use against vessels and land targets.[15]

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.[13] Some AW159 models have been fitted with various General Dynamics-built mission systems, these include secured data recorders and tactical processing systems which integrate sensor data and application information for displaying within the cockpit as well as for retention within encrypted data storage.[16]

Operational history[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

A Wildcat taking off from RFA Argus during trials in 2011

The UK has placed initial orders to receive a total of 34 Wildcats for the British Army and a further 28 for the Royal Navy. The Army variant is to enter operational service in 2014, with the RN variant to follow in 2015.[17]

The Royal Navy commissioned a Wildcat Fielding Squadron, known as 700W Naval Air Squadron (700W NAS)[18] 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 type enters service in 2015. During the trials, a total of 390 deck landings were completed including 148 night landings, 76 of which being conducted by pilots using night vision goggles.[19]

The first production naval Wildcat was received in May 2013 by 700W NAS; at this point further trials of the type were still being conducted, which included deck landings aboard RFA Mounts Bay.[20] In July 2012, the Wildcat conducted its first public display at the Farnborough Airshow. At the event, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond stated of the new helicopter: "Wildcat represents a considerable advance over the current Lynx helicopters, bringing greatly improved performance and capability."[21]

South Korea[edit]

On 15 January 2013, South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration announced the selection of the AW159 to fulfill a requirement of the Republic of Korea Navy 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.[22] In January 2014, DAPA announced it will equip its Wildcat helicopters with Spike NLOS missiles to provide a stand-off attack capability for engaging targets such as ground artillery and small vessels.[23]

Operators[edit]

 South Korea
 United Kingdom

Specifications (AW159)[edit]

Head-on view of a AW159 Wildcat. Note the nose-mounted optical sensor
External video
Inflight video of AW159

Data from Future Lynx brochure,[26] AW159 page[27]

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: 2 hr 42 min (4 hr 30 min with auxiliary fuel tanks)

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:

See also[edit]

Related development
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Lynx Wildcat makes first flight, with AW149 also poised for debut". Flight International. 13 November 2009. Archived from the original on 16 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  2. ^ "Navy may get new version of battle-proven Lynx helicopter". webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk. The National Archives. 22 July 2002. Archived from the original on 23 January 2006. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "AW159 Lynx Wildcat Battlefield Reconnaissance Helicopter, United Kingdom". army-technology.com. Net Resources International. Archived from the original on 24 September 2010. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  4. ^ "AgustaWestland Awarded Future Lynx Contract". AgustaWestland, 22 June 2006.
  5. ^ "UK's Future Lynx programme moves into manufacturing phase". Flightglobal.com, 9 October 2007.
  6. ^ "Future Lynx Is Now The AW159!". AgustaWestland, 24 April 2009.
  7. ^ "New Wildcat helicopter unveiled". MOD, 11 July 2012.
  8. ^ Second AW159 Lynx Wildcat Makes Its First Flight
  9. ^ Hoyle, Craig. "Third Lynx Wildcat joins flight test fleet". Flight International, 23 November 2010.
  10. ^ "Wildcat helicopter row turns hostile." defencemanagement.com, 21 July 2009.[dead link]
  11. ^ Hoyle, Craig. "UK cuts Future Lynx deal, delays new carriers". Flight International, 12 December 2008.
  12. ^ Chunter, Andrew. "UK Special Forces To Use Wildcat Variant". Defense News, 21 December 2011.
  13. ^ a b c d e Drwiega, Andrew. "Is the AW159 Lynx Wildcat Wild Enough?."
  14. ^ Hoyle, Craig (9 October 2007). "PICTURES: UK's Future Lynx programme moves into manufacturing phase". Flight International. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  15. ^ UK orders lightweight missiles for naval Wildcat - Flightglobal.com, 17 June 2014
  16. ^ "GD to deliver mission system equipment for UK Merlin helicopters." naval-technology.com, 9 December 2014.
  17. ^ "Future Lynx helicopter becomes Lynx Wildcat". UK Ministry of Defence, 27 April 2009.[dead link]
  18. ^ "Fleet Air Arm forms Lynx Wildcat training squadron". shephard.co.uk, May 26, 2009.
  19. ^ "Wildcat impresses during its first trials aboard a warship." Navy News, 17 January 2012.
  20. ^ "Wildcat crews begin training." Fleet Air Arm Officers Association, 22 July 2013.
  21. ^ Gardener, Claire. "Anti-pirate Wildcat helicopter unveiled by Royal Navy." The Scotsman, 29 January 2013.
  22. ^ "South Korea picks AW159 for maritime helicopter deal". Flight International, 15 January 2013.
  23. ^ "Seoul to Equip its New Maritime Helicopters with Israeli SPIKE Missiles." Defense-Update.com, 6 January 2014.
  24. ^ "South Korea Navy orders eight AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat helicopters". naval-technology.com. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  25. ^ a b "World Air Forces 2013". Flightglobal Insight. 2013. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  26. ^ AW Future Lynx. AgustaWestland, May 2009. Retrieved: 8 September 2011.
  27. ^ AW159 page (see Technical Data tab). AgustaWestland. Retrieved: 20 January 2014.
  28. ^ Hoyle, Craig. "UK orders Thales lightweight multi-role missiles for Lynx Wildcat". Flightglobal, 4 April 2011.
  29. ^ Hoyle, Craig. "Future Air-to-Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW). http://defense-update.com, 20 February 2012.[dead link]

External links[edit]