The Westland Lynx is a British multi-purpose military helicopter designed and built by Westland Helicopters at its factory in Yeovil. Originally intended as a utility craft for both civil and naval usage, military interest led to the development of both battlefield and naval variants. The Lynx went into operational usage in 1977 and was later adopted by the armed forces of over a dozen nations, primarily serving in the battlefield utility, anti-armour, search and rescue and anti-submarine warfare roles.
The Lynx was the world’s first fully aerobatic helicopter. In 1986 a specially modified Lynx set the current Fédération Aéronautique Internationale‘s official airspeed record for helicopters. The Westland 30 was derived from the Lynx as a civil utility helicopter, but it was not a commercial success and only a small number were built. In the 21st century, a modernised military variant of the Lynx, designated as the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat, was designed as a multirole combat helicopter scheduled to enter service in 2014. The Lynx remains in production under AgustaWestland, the successor to Westland Helicopters.
The initial design (then known as the Westland WG.13) was started in the mid-1960s as a replacement for the Westland Scout and Wasp, and a more advanced alternative to the UH-1 Iroquois. 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. Aérospatiale received 30% of production with Westland performing the remainder. It was intended that France would procure the Lynx for its Navy and as an armed reconnaissance helicopter for the French Army, with the United Kingdom in return buying Aérospatiale Gazelle and Puma for its armed forces. The French Army cancelled its requirement for the Lynx in October 1969.
The British Army ordered over 100 Lynx helicopters under the designation of Lynx AH.1 (Army Helicopter Mark 1). The AH.1 could perform several different roles, such as transport, armed escort, anti-tank warfare (with eight TOW missiles), reconnaissance and evacuation missions.Deliveries of production helicopters began in 1977. An improved Lynx AH.1 with Gem 41-1 or Gem 42 engines and an uprated transmission was referred to as the Lynx AH.5; only five were built for evaluation purposes. The AH.5 led to the Lynx AH.7, which added a new tail rotor derived from the Westland 30, a reinforced airframe, improved avionics and defensive aids. These later received upgrades such as British Experimental Rotor Programme (BERP) rotor blades.
The initial naval variant of the Lynx, known as the Lynx HAS.2 in British service, or Lynx Mk.2(FN) in French service, differed from the Lynx AH.1 in being equipped with a tricycle undercarriage and a deck restraint system, folding main rotor blades, an emergency flotation system and a nose-mounted radar. An improved Lynx for the Royal Navy, the Lynx HAS.3, had Gem 42-1 Mark 204 engines, an uprated transmission, a new flotation system and an Orange Crop ESM system. The Lynx HAS.3 also received various other updates in service. A similar upgrade to the French Lynx was known as the Lynx Mk.4(FN). Many different export variants based on the Lynx HAS.2 and HAS.3 were sold to other air arms.
In 1986, the former company demonstrator Lynx, registered G-LYNX, was specially modified with Gem 60 engines and BERP rotor blades. On 11 August 1986 the helicopter was piloted by Trevor Egginton when it set an absolute speed record for helicopters over a 15 and 25 km course by reaching 400.87 kilometres per hour (216.45 km; 249.09 mph); an official record with the FAI it currently holds. At this speed, it had a lift-to-drag ratio of 2, and its BERP blade tips had a speed of Mach 0.97.
Announced in 1984, the Lynx-3 was an enhanced Lynx development, with a stretched fuselage, a redesigned tailboom and tail surfaces, Gem 60-3/1 engines and a new wheeled tricycle undercarriage. The Lynx-3 also included BERP rotor blades, and increased fuel capacity. Both Army and Naval variants were proposed. The project was ended in 1987 due to insufficient orders. Only one Army Lynx-3 prototype was built. A development of the Lynx AH.7 with the wheeled undercarriage of the Lynx-3 was marketed by Westland as the Battlefield Lynx in the late 1980s. The prototype first flew in November 1989 and deliveries began in 1991. This variant entered British Army service as the Lynx AH.9.
In the early 1990s, Westland incorporated some of the technology from the Naval Lynx-3 design into a less-radical Super Lynx. This featured BERP rotor blades, the Westland 30-derived tail rotor, Gem 42 engines, a new under-nose 360-degree radar installation and an optional nose-mounted electro-optical sensor turret. Royal Navy Lynx HAS.3s upgraded to Super Lynx standard were known in service as the Lynx HMA.8, and several export customers ordered new-build or upgraded Super Lynxes. Later, Westland offered the Super Lynx 200 with LHTEC CTS800 engines and the Super Lynx 300, which also had a new cockpit and avionics derived from the AgustaWestland EH101. Both of these models have achieved several export sales.
Future Lynx/Lynx Wildcat
The British Army and Royal Navy Lynx fleets are due to be upgraded to a new common advanced Lynx variant based on the Super Lynx 300, with a new tailboom, undercarriage, cockpit, avionics and sensors. Initially referred to as the Future Lynx, then Lynx Wildcat, this type has since been renamed as the AW159 Wildcat
The Lynx is a multi-purpose twin-engine battlefield helicopter. Early versions were powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce Gem 2 turboshaft engines, which powered a four-blade semi-rigid main rotor. The rotors were of a completely new design, the blades were composed of a honeycomb sandwich structure. The Lynx is an agile helicopter, capable of performing loops and rolls, and is capable of considerable speeds. Many of the Lynx’s components had been derived from earlier Westland helicopters such as the Scout and Wasp.
The Lynx features a two-man cockpit for a pilot and observer sitting side by side. The cabin located behind the cockpit is accessed through a pair of large sliding doors on each side of the fuselage; the cabin can accommodate up to nine equipped troops depending upon seating configuration, an alternative configuration houses radio equipment in the cabin area when being used in the command post role, surplus fuel for long journeys can also be housed in the cabin. Those Lynxes operated by British Army were fitted with a Marconi Elliot AFCS system for automatic stabilisation on three axes.
- Role: Multi-purpose Military Helicopter
- Status: In Service
First Flight: 21 March 1971
Manufacturer: Westland Helicopters, Augusta Westland
- Primary Users: Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, French Navy, German Navy