The Westland Lynx (AgustaWestland since 2000) was designed to a British Army requirement and initially consisted of four planned projects that included an army, navy, 2-seat attack and civilian passenger versions. The main idea of the planned four designs revolved around utilization of differing airframes centered around the same powerplant components making for one economical and reusable solution. In the end, only the army and navy versions were ever actually completed but both types went on to see extensive usage in military forces of various nations, taking on other roles in the process and spawning a myriad of variants as needed. The Lynx is currently in active service - a sound testament to the original 1960's era design.
Lynx began as the Westland WG.13 (Westland numbered each of their designs in this consecutive format meaning that it had already completed some 12 other designs previous to WG.13), intended to replace the aging "Scout" and gangly "Wasp" platforms, both past Westland products themselves. This system was also intended to challenge the role currently held by the American Huey UH-1 Cobra helicopter in the attack role. Initially, the helicopter endeavor included Aerospatiale of France (to make up some 30% of the Lynx production), with France looking to purchase both army and navy versions of the Lynx while Britain was to take deliveries of Aerospatiale products in turn (Gazelle and Puma). The 1967 coproduction agreement led to nowhere as the French bowed out so Westland proceeded on the Lynx design on their own, achieving first flight on March 21st, 1971. A total of 6 prototypes were eventually built (along with 7 preproduction models) while production of the Lynx line was handled at Westland in Yeovil, Somerset, England.
Despite its origins as a naval attack platform, the Lynx was quick to showcase its performance capabilities and roomy cabin, offering more potential for the system than originally envisioned for armed service. The aircraft was quite capable of performing loops and could roll and handle much like a traditional fixed-wing aircraft thanks to its main rotor design - making it quite responsive. In 1972, the Lynx set a new helicopter speed record by achieving 321.74 km/h and would later best this number by hitting 400.87 km/h on August 11th, 1986, the latter thanks to new rotor blades (complete with swept tips) via the British Experimental Rotor Program (or BERP). This particular Lynx was the 102nd production AH.Mk 1 model but modified with twin auxiliary tail fins and water-methanol boosted engines. The converted AH.Mk 1 model was later reconfigured back to its army status with standard equipment eventually retired to the UK Helicopter Museum.
The Lynx has appeared in both land-based and naval variants, both stemming from the two original army and navy designs. Land-based variants included the initial British Army AH.Mk 1 - which took on a variety of tasks during service - and the AH.Mk 7, an improved version of the AH.Mk 5 for the Army Air Corps and Fleet Air Arm featuring an IR suppressor over the exhaust, the BERP main rotor arrangement and Sky Guardian radar warning receiver (RWR). 100 of the original AH.Mk 1's were ordered. The AH.Mk 9 (or "Battlefield Lynx") became the British Army version of the "Super Lynx" and featured a retractable wheel undercarriage.
Naval variants began with the HAS.Mk 2 (HAS = Helicopter, Anti-Submarine) and could be fielded as an anti-ship or anti-submarine warfare role. The HAS.Mk 2 achieved first flight in February of 1976. The HAS.3 was an improved version and featured sub-variants. The HMA.Mk 8 "Super Lynx" (HMA = Helicopter, Maritime Attack) was an upgraded attack model for maritime usage while other HMA.Mk 8 sub-variants appeared with improved technologies.
The Lynx was the focus of a major export program as well and was sold to a variety of nations in both its army and navy forms. Though the French Army cancelled their need for the Lynx, the French Navy went on to field the helicopter, complete with French systems such as the OMERA-Segid search radar. Operators of the Lynx - in all their varied forms - have included Algeria, Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Malaysia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Portugal, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, Qatar and - of course - the United Kingdom. "Super Lynx" represents a successful export venture with nation-specific avionics. Brazil was one of the first export nations to take deliveries of the Super Lynx.
On June 14th, 1984, a prototype of the "Lynx 3" went airborne. The Lynx 3 represented the successor in the Lynx line and was intended primarily as an attack helicopter with potential buyers in France and Germany. This project was basically nullified when the French and Germans geared up to produce their own solution in the Eurocopter Tiger. The Lynx 3 was then officially cancelled in 1987. Development of the Lynx 3 did further the basic Lynx line, allowing Westland to produce the AH.Mk 9, based on the AH.Mk 7.
The Westland 30 (or WG.30) was a derivative designed from the Lynx. This passenger transport model (commercial and military) was based on the army version of the Lynx helicopter and was intended for VIP use. The ill-conceived aircraft was doomed to failure, forcing Westland into bankruptcy (forcing the creation of AgustaWestland), with only 40 of the type constructed - all for civilian use. Operators were limited to India (Pawan Hans), the UK (British Airways, British International Helicopters and Helicopter Hire Ltd) and the United States (Omniflight and Airspur). First flight of the model was achieved on April 10th, 1979.
"Future Lynx" will ensure the Lynx's reach into the new millennium. The revised design features the tailfins as seen on the WG.30, new tail rotor unit, 2 x LHTEC CTS800-4N turboshaft engines, 4,533lb payload, improved countermeasures and IFF, a laser target designator and a new digital cockpit with large multifunction displays (MFDs) numbering four.
Of the total 415 Lynxes produced, 267 of them have been for navy use.
Outwardly, the Lynx featured a forward cockpit area behind the nose assembly for pilot and copilot seated in a side-by-side arrangement with a cabin directly behind. Cabin access was made possible by two windowed cabin doors along either side of the fuselage. The twin turboshaft engines were mounted behind and above the cabin and powered a four-blade, semi-rigid main rotor component along with a four-blade tail rotor on the tail port side. Both blade systems were arranged in a cruciform pattern while the composite tail rotor spins in the opposite direction to reduce operational noise. The main rotor was mounted on a forged titanium hub. The undercarriage could be of a traditional skid system or a three-wheeled retractable undercarriage.
Armament for the Lynx varied depending on the role it was to play. Anti-submarine versions had provision for 2 x torpedoes (Mk 44, Mk 46, A244S and Stingray types), 2 x Mk 11 depth charges and a dipping sonar system. Anti-surface variants could field 4 x anti-ship missiles (Sea Skua - British Navy / AS.12 wire-guided - French Navy). For basic army attack use, the aircraft could be fitted with x 20mm cannons (on fuselage sides), 2 x 70mm rocket pods or 8 x TOW anti-tank guided missiles (four launch tubes to a side) as required. For all other general purpose battlefield use, the Lynx could be defended with crew -operated pintle-mounted machine guns.
The lynx was available during the British Falklands War with Argentina in its HAS.2 naval form. The only losses occurred in the conflict were landed Lynxes on British ships that were struck by Argentine airborne munitions - none were lost operationally to direct enemy fire however. The Lynx also served the British Army well in monitoring activities in Northern Ireland. Lynxes were then deployed during the first Persian Gulf War of 1991, to which the helicopter system was given credit for engaging Iraqi Navy elements to good effect. The Lynx also saw combat action in the follow-up Invasion of Iraq in 2003. More recently, a Lynx helicopter was hit by an enemy projectile (missile or rocket) on May 6th, 2006, forcing the system to crash into a home, killing all onboard (5). Beyond that activity, the Lynx has proven quite capable of humanitarian and Search and Rescue (SAR) operations as well.
Operationally, the Lynx has succeeded in becoming one of the top helicopter designs of modern warfare (moreso the naval version over the army one). Not only did it prove itself on being an adaptable platform, its performance capabilities earned the respect of many a pilot. The Lynx legacy could very well live on in the proposed "Future Lynx" project - a program set to take all things good of the original Lynx and package it in an all new advanced design with an increased lifespan. Future Lynx is expected to become airborne in 2009 with production examples ready for delivery in 2011. The deal with AgustaWestland and the British MoD could net some 70 to 80 total initial delivery examples with a contract worth 1 billion pounds.
The Lynx anti-tank models in British Army service are being phased out of service by the more capable Boeing/Westland WAH-64 Apache AH.Mk 1 - a British Army equivalent of the American AH-64 Apache attack helicopter.
The Brazilian Navy is intending to modernize a fleet of eight of its Super Lynx helicopters to the newer Mk.21B standard. This model will feature LHTEC CST800-4N turboshaft engines along with an all-glass digital cockpit and upgraded mission computers.