The first of four Super Lynx 300 maritime helicopters destined for South Africa is on display here at the Farnborough airshow at Finmeccanica’s Outside Exhibit area (OE2).
According to AgustaWestland Lynx program manager Mark Loader, the Lynx’s flight test schedule is progressing well since it flew for the first time in March. “We’ve completed all of our initial vibration work and are well into the avionics testing phase,” Loader said. “It flew two months ahead of schedule, and all four aircraft are on track for handover to the South African air force during the first quarter of next year.”
Operational test and evaluation are expected to take a further 12 months and then the helicopters will be handed over to create a flight within Number 22 Squadron, based at air force base Ysterplaat [northeast of Cape Town].
“They will be flown by South African air force crews on behalf of the navy,” Loader explained, “and will be deployed on new South African navy Valour-class frigates, capable of undertaking anti-surface warfare, maritime patrol and search-and-rescue roles.”
The fully marinized Lynx are equipped with a 360-degree scan search radar, nose- mounted Denel/FLIR Systems sensor package and an advanced electronics support measures system. No fixed weapons are planned at this stage, but it will be fitted for a cabin-door machine gun. The aircraft will also have a comprehensive communications suite comprising HF, V/UHF radios and a datalink.
Most Advanced Lynx Ever
The South African helicopters embody a high level of domestically sourced avionics and mission equipment, making them the most advanced version of the Super Lynx 300 flying to date. Pilot and ground crew conversion training will be conducted by AgustaWestland at its customer training center in Yeovil, UK, starting early next year, and will be completed prior to delivery.
Francois Kotze, who manages the program on behalf of procurement agency Armscor, told Aviation International News that the South African navy is returning to shipborne aviation after retiring its old Westland Wasp fleet in the 1980s. “Since then we have not used embarked aviation but we have flown our Oryx [South African-built Super Pumas] out to ships for deck-landing practice.”
The Valour-class ships are new Meko A200 patrol corvettes built at Blohm and Voss in Germany. All four have been delivered and the first has just entered service–the others are at various stages of completion. They will all have the harpoon deck-capture system to aid landings in rough weather.
The contract for the four Lynxes was placed in 2003 by the South African government, but after a delay, so their completion will be slightly behind that of the Valour-class vessels. South Africa is the fourth country to select the Super Lynx 300, after Malaysia, Thailand and Oman, which operate the aircraft in a variety of maritime and land-based roles.
The Super Lynx 300 is the latest version of the Lynx helicopter family of which more than 420 have been ordered by 17 customers worldwide. It is powered by two 1,361-shp LHTEC CTS800-4N engines which give it greatly improved hot-weather and single-engine performance. Flight and sensor information is displayed on a fully integrated six-screen color LCD cockpit display system, enabling greater crew effectiveness.
AgustaWestland is also in the process of delivering 30 A109LUH helicopters to the South African air force. They are being assembled by Denel Aviation in South Africa.