For the last 45 years the Westland Lynx has been the backbone of the Fleet Air Arm`s Anti-Submarine Warfare and anti-surface warfare capability, with the Lynx being deployed on board the Royal Navy’s Type 42 and 45 destroyers and Leander class and Type 21, 22 and 23 frigates along with the Ice Patrol ships HMS Endurance and Protector and many of the Royal Fleet Auxiliaries. The passing of the final Sea Skua armed Lynx HMA Mk 8s are retired on the 31st March 2017, will leave the Royal Navy facing a capability gap which filled by the Lynx for over four decades and will not be filled until the replacement Wildcat HMA Mk 2 can be field with Sea Venom Anti-Ship Missile around 2020.
While the Lynx was being developed by Westland’s as a replacement for the Royal Navy`s Wasp which was the first Small Ships Flight Helicopter, and British Army`s Scout helicopters it became part of the Anglo French Helicopter Programme in 1967 with Westlands joining French helicopter manufacturers Aerospatiale in developing the Lynx for the Royal Navy and the French Navy, alongside the Puma and Gazelle
During the development process in 1972 the Lynx set a world speed record over 15 and 25 km flying at 321.74 Km/h 199.9 mph and then went on to achieve a speed of 318 Km/h and 197,9 mph over a 100 km/hr, later in August 1986 the company’s demonstrator was modified with a pair of Gem 60 engines and British Experimental Rotor Programme Blades and over the 15 and 25 k courses reached a speed of 400.87 Km/h and 249.09 mph which to his day remains the FAIs absolute speed record. In addition to its speed the Lynx’s, design with its semi rigid rotor head produced a highly manoeuvrable and agile helicopter which has been demonstrated throughout its service history by the Royal Navy’s Black Cats aerobatic display team and the British Army’s Blue Eagles.
The Prototype made its first flight on the 21st March 1971, from which was developed the Army Utility/Anti-Tank Version for the British Army and the Maritime Lynx which was to be operated by the Royal Navy and the French Navy. The Battlefield Lynx was flown by the British Army who flew the A H MK 1, and the upgraded A H Mk 7 with skid undercarriage with the type being final retired in 2015, and the the tri-cycle undercarriage A H Mk 9 aircraft which was re-engined with CTS T-800 turbo shafts as the Mk 9A for Afghanistan operations and after April will be the final Lynx Variant in service which will go on for another twelve months before being retired.
The Battlefield Lynx was also flown by 847 NAS as part of the Commando Helicopter Force in support of 3 Commando Brigade. Today 847 is now flying the Lynx Wildcat AH my 1 in support of the Royal Marines. The Lynx HAS Mk 2 started service trials with 700L NAS in 1976, the first Lynx joined 702 NAS in 1978 became operational with 815 NAS in 1981.
The Lynx HAS mk 2 was built with a nose mounted Sea Spray radar and was a quantum leap beyond the capabilities of the venerable Westland Wasp HAS mk 1, which was teamed with the Wessex HAS mk 3 with the Wessex searching for the prey and the Wasp flying out dropping its sting and then scurrying back to the frigate. Initially 60 machines where acquired for the Royal Navy, later 53 where modified to HAS mk 3 which had new Gem 42-1 engines and an improved gearbox. The Royal Navy’s Lynx had a non-retractable tricycle-type landing gear designed to allow the Lynx to operate from the flight deck of a frigate up to Sea State 6 with the oleo-pneumatic struts, having been designed to absorb the shock of a 6ft/s descent rate.
The Lynx’s cabin 5.2m³ could accommodate 9 troops or could carry a 1,360kg underslung load from an external cargo hook.
The helicopter was flown with a crew of Pilot and Observer in the Anti-Submarine / Anti-Surface Warfare Roles armed with Stingray Torpedoes or depth charges or Sea Skua Air to Surface Missiles.
During the Falklands campaign the Lynx and Sea Kings flew a continuous ASW patrol around the Task Force, on April 25th, 1982, HMS Brilliant Lynx operating with a Westland Wasp off HMS Plymouth and a Wessex from HMS Antrim disabled the Argentine submarine Santa Fe off the coast of South Georgia.
Sea Sauk missiles fired from a Lynx badly damaged the Argentine patrol gunboat, Alférez Sobral, during the early hours of the 3rd May and a second patrol boat Rí Iguazú was damaged and ran aground after being hit by a Sea Skus Missile launched from a Lynx. The Anti-surface warfare success of the Lynx and Sea Skua combination continued with the destruction of the Cargo ship the Rio Carcarana on the 23rd May 1982.
The Lynx has also been capable of being armed with a door mounted machine gun either a 7.62 GPMG or a 0.50 ins calibre machine gun manned by Aircrew man. The aircraft have been deployed on anti narcotics patrol and have been successful in the interdiction of smaller high powered vessels and the seizure of a large quantity on contraband.
As a small ships flight helicopter the crews have not only been called upon to perform their primary task but have also engaged in utility / transport operations including, Replenishment at Sea, fast roping deployments of boarding teams and providing a platform for support operations. The Lynx has the ability to undertake fast roping and winching activities having an external hoist.
The Lynx was flown by 829 NAs with the aircraft being received as replacement for the squadrons Wasp HAS Mk 1 helicopters in 1986. The squadrons aircraft where in the Gulf during 1999 / 91 supporting Royal Navy operations in the Kuwait Theatre of operations. In 1982 Royal Navy relocated its Lynx fleet from RNAS Yeovilton to RNAS Portland
During operations in the Gulf operations the Royal Navy’s Lynx deployed 25 Sea Skua Missiles 18 of which were conformed to have damaged their targets, in addition to the strike ASW role the helicopters were also used to deploy troops to oil platforms and into Kuwait together with aerial reconnaissance operations. The Lynx was also deployed aboard the ships which support the return of the coalition forces during the Iraqi campaign
The Squadron was disbanded on 26 March 1993, when all its Lynx Flights were absorbed by 815 NAS, which has had up to 17 Flights deployed, in 1999 702 & 815 NAS returned to RNAS Yeovilton, where 702 NAS filled the operational training role for crews before joining the front line squadron 815 NAS.
Externally the Lynx HAS Mk 2 and 3 appeared similar 53 of the original HAS Mk 1s where upgraded to HAS Mk 2 standards along with thirty new build aircraft the last of which was retired in April 2013, The last version of the Lynx in service with the Fleet Air Arm was the Lynx HMA Mk 8, 65 airframes where upgraded with the installation of the Sea Owl Thermal Imaging system in a nose mounted turret which necessitated the re positioning of the Sea Spray Mk 1 radar to beneath the forward fuselage.
The Lynx HMA mk 8 does not have a Glass cockpit but it is fitted with Central Display Unit and a tactical system fully integrated with the radar, probably developing the Lynx to the full extent of the original airframe hence enter the Lynx Wildcat HMA mk 2, and as it is now being called the Wildcat H M A Mk 2.
The Royal Navy`s Lynx has also proved its self in the anti-narcotics role drug smugglers have resorted to semi-submersibles and hi powered boats to try and out run the surface patrols and the Royal Navy has developed a technique to utilise the Lynx to Kill these vessels, once located the power boats are intercepted by the Lynx, with the crew putting a burst from the 50 cal across the bows of the smugglers to encourage them to stop, failure then results in direct action from a Royal Marines sniper on board taking out the engines with a sniper rifle to allow the boat to be apprehended by surface search teams.
The Lynx is now in the process of being retired by the Royal Navy with the drawdown of the fleet begin in 2014 when the Operational Training Role became redundant and 702 NAS was decommissioned and in August 2014.
825 NAS operating alongside 815 NAS became the Lynx Wildcat Maritime Force the last of the Wildcat’s being delivered to the Royal Navy in November 2016. During the draw down 815 NAS operated a mix of Lynx HMA Mk 8s and Wildcat HMA Mk 2, and by the end of 2016 where operating seven Wildcat HMA 2 and a similar number of the legacy Lynx HMA my 8s, with the last detached flight, 208 Flight disembarking from HMS Portland and finally returning to RNAS Yeovilton in March 2017, ahead of the final retirement on the 31st March 2017.
The Lynx over the last 45 years has gone through a series of upgrades to designed maintain the operational efficiency of the aircraft which has involved power plants, systems sensors and communications upgrades which has allowed the Lynx the ability to provide an effective anti submarine and surface warfare capability now less essential today then when the aircraft where deployed with the South Atlantic Task Force in 1982.
The Super Lynx 300 remains in production with Leonardo Helicopters the successor of Westland helicopters the Super Lynx is the latest evolution of the Lynx which has been in operation with 15 nations, in both the maritime and land environments, and the later version still remain in service with a number of Navies including Algeria, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Malaysia, South Africa, South Korea, Malaysia, Oman, Portugal, and Thailand.
The Royal Navy will be deploying one of their Wildcat HMA Mk 2 helicopters aboard a German Navy Frigate as part of raised defence co-operation during 2017, No details of the deployment are currently available but it is seen as an indication that could help Leonardo helicopters with the UK Government are working to interest the German Navy in the acquisition of the Wildcat as a replacement for the aging Lynx MK 88 / 88As which where acquired in the 1990s.
The Royal Malaysian Navy is also looking at the option of an avionics and engine up grade for their Super Lynx Mk 100, maritime helicopters as an alternative to the stalled acquisition of six new anti-submarine helicopters, and Leonardo Helicopters are also upgrading the avionics and engines of the Portuguese Navy’s five Lynx MK 95 helicopters which are operated from the Vasco da Gama- and Bartolomeu Dias-class frigates, With the Portuguese Navy is planning to continue the operation of the Lynx through to 2030. In terms of the Super Lynx development work is on going which would allow the future deployment of the Sea Venom and Martlet ASMs which would further enhance the capabilities of the aircraft.
Although the enhancements for the Super Lynx, it is seen that Leonardo Helicopters Yeovil factory`s future in the UK will more than likely be hinged to the development of the export potential of the Wildcat as to the Super Lynx, the Last aircraft have been delivered to South Korea and two examples are in manufacture for the Philippines, There will now doubt be considerable interest in Somerset in the German Naval and further South Korean interest in acquiring new maritime helicopters, so the presence of the Lynx will remain with foreign operators the Royal Navy is set to hand the baton on to the Wildcat fleet.
The last of the 28 Maritime Wildats for the Royal Navy was delivered to 825 NAS in October last year at the RNAS Yeovilton, which is the home of the Wildcat Maritime Force and also the home of the 34 Wildcat A H mk 1 helicopters of British Army’s Aviation Reconnaissance Group and 847 Naval Air Squadron operated in support of the British Army and the Royal Marines who recived the 62nd and final Wildcat an A H Mk 1 in December 2017. The Royal Navy Lynx helicopters remain deployed and the final return to Yeovilton of an operational flight is expected on March 10th when the 208 Flights Lynx H M A Mk 8 which has been embarked on HMS Portland returns home to RNAS Yeovilton which will bring to a close the operational deployment of the Westland Lynx ahead of the sunset on the types Royal Navy service when it reaches it OSD on 31st March 2017.
THE STORY OF ROYAL NAVY’S MOST COLOURFUL LYNX
The Lynx HMA Mk 8 was displayed by the Black Cats in both solo and pairs displays through out its career with the Royal Navy and they fly perhaps one of the most colourful Lynx – Purdy
11th February 2017