This is not an article about some breeding programme to conserve the Scottish Wildcat (Felis silvestris grampia) but instead the evolution of the twentieth-century Westland Lynx into the twenty-first century AugustaWestland AW.159 Wildcat. The Lynx began as the WG.13 proposed by Westland in the mid 1960s to replace their Westland Wasp and Scout helicopters serving with the UK’s Fleet Air Arm (FAA), Royal Marines (RM) and Army Air Corps (AAC). In 1967 an Anglo-French agreement to produce a family of multi-service helicopters was formed between Westland (now AugustaWestland within Leonardo S.p.A.) and Sud-Aviation (later Aérospatiale and now Airbus SE). Consequently the WG.13 was developed and built as the Lynx along with the Gazelle and Puma helicopters both for national use and for export. Both navies and the British Army were interested in an externally similar Lynx design, whereas France’s Aviation Légère de l'Armée de Terre briefly sought a radically much modified gunship before withdrawing. Thereafter the project focussed on a similar fuselage for the remaining army and naval versions despite very different undercarriage solutions for the two roles. And so the Lynx was born and without the Lynx there could be no the Wildcat.
The Lynx Effect
The AAC and RM received the Lynx AH.1 with a skid undercarriage from 1979 onwards for various transport and utility roles as well as for anti-tank warfare (sixty AH.1(TOW)s of the 116 AH.1s built) carrying eight Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) missile tubes. Various engine, rotor blade, transmission and equipment changes developed the AH.1 up to AH.7 standard and from 1991 the AH.9 (sixteen new-built plus eight conversions), with uprated engines and fixed tricycle-wheeled undercarriage. The final UK Army and Marinesoperated Lynxes were retired during 2018 with the only AH.1 export success being three similar Lynx Mk 28s bought for the Qatar Police.
France’s Marine Nationale received twenty-six Lynx Mk 2(FN)s from 1979 with a further fourteen Mk 4(FN)s following later. In 1981 the FAA received the first of their sixty externally alike Lynx HAS.2s, later joined by thirty new-built HAS.3s and all duly converted over time into later variants. All shared common naval features such as tricycle-wheeled undercarriages, with their single castoring mainwheels fitted on outrigger sponsons either side of rear fuselage, and all were corrosion-proofed and had foldable rotor blades and tail units. All also had multi-role rear cabins where the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) equipment could be removed for transport and related missions, and all were radar equipped and could carry a range of mission related equipment and weaponry, which varied by nation. In almost four decades such equipment inevitably changed and with FAA Lynxes especially this generated an alphabet soup of designations. In the HMA.8 sub-variants this brought a very different nose profile with an Electro-Optical (EO) Turret above and re-located radome below. By March 2017 the FAA had retired its Lynx fleet although the final French aircraft were not withdrawn until September this year. With the exception of Qatar above, all other Lynx exports were predicated on the naval variants sold to Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, Germany, Malaysia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea and Thailand.
The Lynx Wildcat
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