The Westland Lynx is a British helicopter designed by Westland and built at Westland's factory in Yeovil, first flying on 21 March 1971 as the Westland WG.13. Originally intended as a utility craft for both civil and naval usage, military interest led to the development of both battlefield and naval variants, which went into operational usage in 1977 and were later adopted by the armed forces of over a dozen nations. The helicopter is now produced and marketed by AgustaWestland.
As part of the Anglo-French helicopter agreement signed in February 1967 the French company Aérospatiale were given a work share in the manufacturing programme.
When piloted by Roy Moxam in 1972, it broke the world record over 15 and 25 km by flying at 321.74 km/h. It also set a new 100 km closed circuit record shortly afterwards, flying at 318.504 km/h. In 1986, a Lynx specially modified with BERP (British Experimental Rotor Programme) rotor blades, registered G-LYNX and piloted by John Egginton set an absolute speed record for helicopters over a 15 and 25 km course by reaching 400.87 km/h (249.09 mph). The Lynx is an agile helicopter, capable of performing loops and rolls.
The British Army ordered 100 Lynx AH (Army Helicopter) Mk.1 for various roles, including tactical transport, armed escort, anti-tank warfare (with eight TOW missiles), reconnaissance and evacuation. The Army has fitted a Marconi Elliot AFCS system onto the Lynx for automatic stabilisation on three axis.
On 22 June 2006 the UK Ministry of Defence awarded Westland a £1 billion contract for 70 Future Lynx helicopters under a strategic partnering agreement with AgustaWestland. The programme will provide the British Army and Royal Navy with 40 and 30 aircraft respectively, with an option for a further 10, split equally between Army and Navy.
Future Lynx is described as a new aircraft that builds on the dynamic and vehicle systems of the existing design, incorporating advanced technology and providing increased capability. The fatigue problems with the existing airframe and rotor system are to be corrected. Future Lynx will utilise some systems developed for the Super Lynx 300 and will feature a redesigned nose and rear fuselage to give greater space and easier access to avionic units. Future Lynx will be powered by two LHTEC CTS800 engines, offering increased power and endurance over existing Lynx power plants, while retaining economy.
The first Future Lynx is programmed to make its maiden flight in 2009, with initial deliveries in 2011. The Army variant will enter operational service in 2014, with the RN variant following in 2015.
In British service it equips the Army Air Corps (AAC) and the Fleet Air Arm (FAA). For the AAC the Lynx AH.7 and AH.9 operate as attack/utility helicopters. The Lynx AH.7 is in service with the FAA where it operates as an attack/utility helicopter in support of the Royal Marines, and the Lynx HMA.8 as anti-submarine warfare helicopter equipped with the Sea Skua anti-ship missile for Royal Navy warships.
The Lynx's most prominent combat role was operating the Sea Skua to devastating effect against the Iraqi Navy during the 1991 Gulf War. The Lynx also saw service with British Army forces during that conflict. The HMA.2 naval ASW variant had already taken part in combat operations in British service during the Falklands War in 1982. None were shot down, but three were lost aboard vessels hit by Argentine bombs or Exocets, one on the MV Atlantic Conveyor and one each on board HMS Coventry and HMS Ardent.
The most recent wartime mission for the Lynx was during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It has also seen extensive service during peacekeeping operations and exercises, and it is standard equipment for most Royal Navy surface combatants when they deploy.
A British Lynx from 847 Naval Air Squadron was shot down over Basra, Iraq on 6 May 2006. The helicopter is believed to have been downed by either a missile or more likely, a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG). The Lynx crashed into a house and burst into flames, killing all five on board, including the Commanding Officer of 847 NAS. A riot followed with locals celebrating the downing of the helicopter and surrounding the crash site as British troops rushed to the scene. This was the first British helicopter and only the second British aircraft downed (the first was an RAF Hercules) due to enemy fire in the war. A flight of either AAC or RM Lynx AH.7s are based at Basra Air Station under command of the Joint Helicopter Force (Iraq) on a rotational basis, but are restricted operationally during the Summer months due to the very high daytime temperatures which affect lifting capacity and endurance dramatically.
The Lynx is a utility type helicopter design with a side by side cockpit for pilot and co-pilot. It features a large sliding and crew door on each side. Its twin turboshaft engines power a four-blade semi rigid main rotor system.
CMP aircraft are those that have the DAS, SATURN and SIFF modifications embodied. All Lynx HAS.8 will eventually be at the CMP standard. The first entered service in early 2008.