AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat

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AW159 Wildcat
Royal Navy Wildcat Helicopter MOD 45158434.jpg
Wildcat HMA2 naval variant in 2013
Role Utility, SAR and ASuW helicopter
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer AgustaWestland
First flight 12 November 2009[1]
Introduction 29 August 2014 (AH1)[2]
Primary users British Army
Royal Navy
Produced 2009-present
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 several export customers, including the Republic of Korea Navy which placed an order for 8 in 2013.

Development[edit]

In 1995, the British Government announced that the Royal Navy's existing Westland Lynx helicopters was to be replaced, at that point, the service was intended to operate an all-Merlin fleet.[3] However, in 2002, the Future Lynx project originated in two studies 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.[4] The utility transport aspect of the BLUH requirement was subsequently de-emphasised and the programme renamed Battlefield Reconnaissance Helicopter (BRH).[5]

Wildcat prototype ZZ401, 2011

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.[6] In October 2007, the program proceeded to the manufacturing phase.[7] On 24 April 2009, it was announced that the Future Lynx had been designated AW159 by AgustaWestland,[8] and would be known in British military service as the Wildcat.[9]

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,[10] and a third helicopter joined the flight testing on 19 November 2010.[11] In July 2009, it was announced that the cost of the programme had increased to £1.7 billion.[12] In December 2008, the MoD announced that the main contract would be proceeding with a minor cut for a total of 62.[13] 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.[14]

Design[edit]

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

The AW159 Wildcat is the successor to, and a further development of, the Westland Lynx.[15] 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.[15] 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.[16] The AW159 is the first helicopter by AgustaWestland to be designed inside an entirely digital environment.[15] Among other changes, certain external elements of the Wildcat, such as the tail rotor, have been redesigned for greater durability and stealth qualities.[15]

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[5] and L-3 Wescam MX-15Di electro-optical/infrared nose turret.[17] In June 2014, the Royal Navy awarded Thales Group a £48 million contract to deliver the Lightweight Multirole Missile (Martlet) for the Wildcat under the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapons Light (FASGW (L)) program for targets such as small boats and fast attack craft. A Wildcat can carry four launchers each with five Martlets.[17] In March 2014 a contract was awarded to MBDA for the Sea Venom (FASGW Heavy) missile for use against vessels and land targets, replacing the Sea Skua.[18] Both missiles are being integrated by AgustaWestland in a single £90m programme by 2018, with IOC for both planned by October 2020.[17]

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.[15] 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.[19] Other mission systems used on the Wildcat have been produced by BAE Systems.[20]

Operational history[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

A Wildcat taking off from RFA Argus during trials in 2011

The UK has ordered 34 Wildcats for the British Army and 28 for the Royal Navy.[2] The Royal Navy commissioned a Wildcat Fielding Squadron, known as 700W Naval Air Squadron (700W NAS)[21] 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.[22]

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.[23] In July 2012, the Wildcat conducted its first public display at the Farnborough Airshow. At the event, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond stated that the "Wildcat represents a considerable advance over the current Lynx helicopters, bringing greatly improved performance and capability."[24]

On 29 August 2014, the Wildcat AH1 formally entered operational service with the Army Air Corps.[2] On 23 March 2015, the Royal Navy's first Wildcat HMA2 began its initial operational deployment at sea onboard HMS Lancaster.[25]

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. A batch of eight aircraft are to be delivered in 2015–16; these will be used for search-and-rescue missions, anti-submarine warfare and surveillance.[26] 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.[27] In April 2015, the South Korean government were considering ordering a further 12 Wildcats to further strengthen the Navy's anti-submarine capbilities, alternative options include the MH-60 Seahawk and the domestically-produced KAI KUH-1 Surion helicopter.[28]

Others[edit]

In 2014, the AW159 was being considered by the Philippine Navy.[29]

Variants[edit]

Wildcat AH1
Initial battlefield reconnaissance model, total of 30 ordered by the Army Air Corps.[30]
Wildcat HMA2
Initial navalised model, total of 28 ordered by the Royal Navy.[31]

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,[34] AW159 page[35]

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. ^ a b c "Army Wildcat continues on track" (PDF). Desider: 15. October 2014. 
  3. ^ Cobbold, Richard (April 1994). "The Maritime helicopter". Chief of the Defence staff (RUSI Journal) 139 (2): 56–63. doi:10.1080/03071849408445805. 
  4. ^ "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. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ "AgustaWestland Awarded Future Lynx Contract". AgustaWestland, 22 June 2006.
  7. ^ "UK's Future Lynx programme moves into manufacturing phase". Flightglobal.com, 9 October 2007.
  8. ^ "Future Lynx Is Now The AW159!". AgustaWestland, 24 April 2009.
  9. ^ "New Wildcat helicopter unveiled". MOD, 11 July 2012.
  10. ^ Second AW159 Lynx Wildcat Makes Its First Flight
  11. ^ Hoyle, Craig. "Third Lynx Wildcat joins flight test fleet". Flight International, 23 November 2010.
  12. ^ "Wildcat helicopter row turns hostile." defencemanagement.com, 21 July 2009.[dead link]
  13. ^ Hoyle, Craig. "UK cuts Future Lynx deal, delays new carriers". Flight International, 12 December 2008.
  14. ^ Chunter, Andrew. "UK Special Forces To Use Wildcat Variant". Defense News, 21 December 2011.
  15. ^ a b c d e Drwiega, Andrew. "Is the AW159 Lynx Wildcat Wild Enough?."
  16. ^ Hoyle, Craig (9 October 2007). "PICTURES: UK's Future Lynx programme moves into manufacturing phase". Flight International. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  17. ^ a b c d e Scott, Richard (21 July 2014). "AgustaWestland funded for FASGW integration on Wildcat". IHS Jane's Navy International. 
  18. ^ UK orders lightweight missiles for naval Wildcat - Flightglobal.com, 17 June 2014
  19. ^ "GD to deliver mission system equipment for UK Merlin helicopters." naval-technology.com, 9 December 2014.
  20. ^ "BAE Systems' CAGE for UK AW159 Wildcats." Sheppard Media, 17 February 2015.
  21. ^ "Fleet Air Arm forms Lynx Wildcat training squadron". shephard.co.uk, May 26, 2009.
  22. ^ "Wildcat impresses during its first trials aboard a warship." Navy News, 17 January 2012.
  23. ^ "Wildcat crews begin training." Fleet Air Arm Officers Association, 22 July 2013.
  24. ^ Gardener, Claire. "Anti-pirate Wildcat helicopter unveiled by Royal Navy." The Scotsman, 29 January 2013.
  25. ^ "HMS Lancaster leaves Portsmouth on deployment of 'firsts'". Royal Navy. 23 March 2015. Retrieved 23 March 2015. 
  26. ^ "South Korea picks AW159 for maritime helicopter deal". Flight International, 15 January 2013.
  27. ^ "Seoul to Equip its New Maritime Helicopters with Israeli SPIKE Missiles." Defense-Update.com, 6 January 2014.
  28. ^ "South Korea Focuses on Underwater Protection." DefenseNews, 12 April 2015.
  29. ^ "Philippines to acquire two new ASW helicopters for PHP5.4 billion". IHS Jane's. 18 March 2014. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  30. ^ Patrick, Allen. "IHS Jane's speaks to the Army Air Corps on the introduction into service of the new Wildcat AH.1 helicopter." IHS Janes, 15 January 2015.
  31. ^ Jennings, Gareth. "Royal Navy graduates first operational Wildcat crews." IHS Janes, 2 March 2015.
  32. ^ "South Korea Navy orders eight AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat helicopters". naval-technology.com. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  33. ^ a b "World Air Forces 2013" (PDF). Flightglobal Insight. 2013. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  34. ^ AW Future Lynx. AgustaWestland, May 2009. Retrieved: 8 September 2011.
  35. ^ AW159 page (see Technical Data tab). AgustaWestland. Retrieved: 20 January 2014.
  36. ^ Hoyle, Craig. "UK orders Thales lightweight multi-role missiles for Lynx Wildcat". Flightglobal, 4 April 2011.
  37. ^ Hoyle, Craig. "Future Air-to-Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW). defense-update.com, 20 February 2012.[dead link]
  38. ^ https://navynews.co.uk/archive/news/item/13005

External links[edit]