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 has the distinction of being the world's first fully aerobatic helicopter with the ability to perform loops and rolls. In 1986, a specially modified Lynx set the current Fédération Aéronautique Internationale's official airspeed record for helicopters at 400.87 km/h, which remains unbroken as of 2016.
In addition to a wide number of land and naval variants of the Lynx, several major derivatives have been produced. The Westland 30 was produced as a civil utility helicopter; it did not become a commercial success and only a small number were built during the 1980s. In the 21st century, a modernised variant of the Lynx was designed as a multirole combat helicopter, designated as the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat; the Wildcat is intended to replace existing Lynx helicopters. The Lynx remains in production by 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. The design was to be powered by a pair of Bristol Siddeley BS.360 turboshaft engines. As part of the Anglo-French helicopter agreement signed in February 1967, the French company Aérospatiale were given a 30 per cent production work share in the programme, Westland performing the remainder. It was intended that France would procure the Lynx for its Navy and of a heavily modified armed reconnaissance variant for the French Army, with the United Kingdom in return buying Aérospatiale Gazelle and Puma for its armed forces. In October 1969, the French Army cancelled its requirement for the Lynx, thus development work of the dedicated armed attack variant was terminated early on.
, which broke the helicopter speed record in 1972, preserved on public display
The first Lynx prototype took its maiden flight on 21 March 1971. In 1972, a Lynx broke the world speed record over 15 and 25 km by flying at 321.74 km/h (199.9 mph). It also set a new 100 km closed circuit record shortly afterwards, flying at 318.504 km/h (197.9 mph). In 1986, the former company demonstrator Lynx, registered G-LYNX, was specially modified with Gem 60 engines and British Experimental Rotor Programme (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 kn; 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.
The British Army ordered over 100 Lynx helicopters under the designation of Lynx AH.1 (Army Helicopter Mark 1) to 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. 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.
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).
Licensed manufacturing, Super Lynx, and Battlefield Lynx
A Royal Navy Lynx HMA.8 of the Lynx Operational Evaluation Unit
In September 1974, the British and Egyptian governments initiated talks to establish a new Egyptian helicopter manufacturer. Out of these talks, the Arab British Helicopter Company (ABHCO) was established during the 1970s; this new organisation was accompanied by an initial arrangement to manufacture under license the Lynx AH.1 in Helwan, Egypt. A separate agreement was formalised with Rolls-Royce to license manufacture the Lynx's Gem engines at the Helwan facility.However, this plan was ultimately aborted due to a lack of funds that had resulted from the collapse of the Arab Organization for Industrialization (AOI).
Announced in 1984, the Lynx-3 was an enhanced development, featuring a stretched fuselage, a redesigned tailboom, Gem 60-3/1 engines, a wheeled tricycle undercarriage, BERP rotor blades, and increased fuel capacity. Both Army and Naval variants were proposed; however, the project was ultimately ended in 1987 due to insufficient orders being placed. 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; deliveries began in 1991, in British Army service this variant is designated 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. From the 1990s onwards, Westland began offering the Super Lynx 200, which was equipped 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. In 2002, Flight International reported that more than 40 variants of the Lynx were in service, numbering almost 400 aircraft having been built for various customers.
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, and later as the Lynx Wildcat, this type has since been re-designated as the AW159 Wildcat. While having the Lynx as the origins and basis of its design, the Wildcat differs substantially. Only 5% of its components, including some main rotor gearbox parts and fuel system, remain interchangeable with previous Lynx variants.
The Lynx is a multi-purpose twin-engine battlefield helicopter, of which specialized versions have been developed for both sea and land-based warfare. A distinguishing feature between early and later aircraft is the undercarriage: early Army versions of the Lynx were equipped with skids, while the Naval and later models have been outfitted with wheels, a requirement for easy ground handling on the deck of a warship. Early versions of the Lynx were powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce Gem turboshaft engines, which powered a four-blade semi-rigid main rotor.[N 1] The rotors were of a completely new design, the blades being composed of a honeycomb sandwich structure and made out of composite material. For shipboard stowage, both the rotor blades and tail can be folded. In flight, the main rotor is kept at a constant speed, simplifying aircraft control; the rotor also features a vibration absorption system.