A record breaker and for 40 years – can anything beat the Lynx?
The Westland Lynx forms the backbone of the British Army and Navy helicopter forces. Entering military service in 1978, it had already set world speed records during testing. Introduced as a utility helicopter in 1971, the Lynx is a twin gas turbine-powered, two-pilot aircraft, with advanced control systems, a four-blade, semi-rigid rotor and, thanks to the fundamental stability and unrivalled agility of the basic airframe, it has performed in almost every role imaginable.
From troop transport, armed escort and anti-tank warfare with the Army Air Corps, to anti-submarine warfare and maritime attack with the Fleet Air Arm, and in many similar roles across the globe, the Lynx is used by the militaries of over a dozen countries worldwide.
This helicopter is used as an airborne command post, a fire support platform, as well as for search and rescue, casualty evacuation, plus many specialist roles including anti-pirate and border patrol. The British Army and Navy also have display teams that use the exceptional agility of the Lynx to amaze the crowds at air shows.
Since its first flight, over four decades ago, the Lynx has been continually upgraded and developed, ensuring it’s always at the forefront of technology, as demonstrated by the most current variant, the Super Lynx. Army models kept the traditional landing “skids’ until only recently, when they adopted the tricycle-wheeled undercarriage used by the Navy to aid ground handling.
Improvements in navigation, communication and radar systems in Navy derivatives have ensured that British helicopter capability at sea is world leading, while Army versions have similarly demonstrated their ability to evolve with the changing requirements of modern warfare.
The latest variants are excelling on the battlefield, using state-of-the-art weapons and tactics including night-vision-assisted operations. The next generation of Lynx (the Wildcat) is currently undergoing flight testing on land and sea, ensuring many years of continued service.
In 1972, just one year after its introduction, the Westland Lynx became the world’s fastest helicopter when airframe XX153 set a new world speed record over 15-kilometre (9.3-mile) and 25-kilometre (15.5-mile) straight courses by flying at an average 321.7 kilometres (199.9 miles) per hour. In 1978 a heavily modified Russian Mil Mi-24 ‘Hind’ increased this to 368.4 kilometres (228.9 miles) per hour. With Westland under political and commercial pressure, it was decided that an attempt would be made to reclaim the record. Westland re-registered Lynx airframe ZB500 as G-LYNX, and began a programme of extensive modification. More powerful Rolls-Royce Gem 60 gas turbines were fitted, along with a water-methanol injection system, but the biggest performance contribution came from the British Experimental Rotor Programme (BERP). On 8 August 1986, these advanced rotor blades carried G-LYNX pilot Trevor Egginton and his flight engineer Derek Clews to the world record speed of 400.9 kilometres (249.1 miles) per hour, which still stands to this day.
Top military choppers
WESTLAND LYNX AH.9 (UK) – The Lynx is the smallest and lightest aircraft of the three in this roundup, which allows it to operate from small ships. The Lynx can carry more troops and is far more agile than its larger counterparts, but has less power so cannot carry as high a payload or as many weapons.
SIKORSKY SH-60 SEAHAWK (USA)- The Seahawk has a huge range advantage over its competitors – almost twice that of the Hind. The common parts it shares with the other aircraft in the Blackhawk family make maintenance and repair highly cost effective. However, it cannot operate from small ship decks, and is not particularly agile.
MIL MI-24 HIND – The Hind is heavily armoured, heavily armed, extremely fast and very powerful. It is not used by the Navy due to its limited range, and its size means it is not very agile. Despite the variety of fearsome weapons that it can carry on its hardpoints, the Hind has often lacked a reliable anti-armour capability.