The recent announcement that the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has signed a strategic partnering agreement (SPA) with AgustaWestland marks a new chapter in the development of the widely used Lynx helicopter. For, at the same time of the agreement, AgustaWestland was awarded a contract, which launches the Future Lynx program.
Moreover, the signing of the SPA effectively secures the future of the AgustaWestland Yeovil facility where Future Lynx will be produced, as well as ensuring its role in the support of Westland-built helicopters in service with UK forces. Indeed, Finmeccanica, which owns AgustaWestland may concentrate much of its military helicopter activity at the UK facility.
Under the Future Lynx contract valued at some $1.85 billion, the British Army will receive 40 new helicopters, with the Royal Navy allocated 30 and an option for a further 10 split equally between the two forces. The current Lynx entered service with the Royal Navy and British Army in the mid-1970s since then the navy version in particular has enjoyed considerable success in export markets.
The Future Lynx is based on the LHTEC CTS800-powered Super Lynx 300, which is in operation with the Royal Malaysian Navy, the Royal Thai Navy and the Royal Air Force of Oman. The type has also been ordered by the South African air force, which is expecting first deliveries soon. The first SAAF model is on display here at Farnborough. As a result of the Future Lynx order, LHTEC (a joint venture between Rolls-Royce and Honeywell) has won a $140 million contract to supply the CTS800-4 turboshaft engines that will power the new helicopter.
At 1,361 shaft horsepower and giving 36 percent greater power than the Gem engines used in the original Lynx, the CTS800-4 provides an enhanced hot-and-high performance, which coupled with reduced fuel flows, will expand the helicopter’s mission capability. The CTS800-4 is equipped with a full authority digital engine control (FADEC), which reduces pilot workload and facilitates the engine’s on-condition maintenance program.
First flight of Future Lynx will take place in late 2009 with initial deliveries starting in 2011 prior to entering operational service in 2014 with the British Army and 2015 with the Royal Navy. Although building on the dynamic and vehicle systems of the existing Super Lynx 300 design, Future Lynx is essentially a new and more capable air vehicle with a 12,000 hour fatigue life airframe that includes provision for incremental upgrades in maximum all up mass. A new low-set symmetric tailplane will improve flying qualities, while larger cockpit doors have been designed to improve crew egress and the redesigned nose and rear fuselage provides greater space for avionics units.
Improved crashworthiness results from the design of a new common undercarriage, while monolithic machined aluminum structural parts both reduce maintenance demands and also improve crashworthiness. Other safety features include a wire strike protection system, crashworthy/armored crew seating and engine infrared suppression system (IRS) on the Army aircraft and a proven integrated defensive aids suite.
Selex Sensors and Airborne Systems (another Finmeccanica company) has been contracted to provide platform protection for Future Lynx, which will see the latest variant of the Helicopter Integrated Defensive Aids System (HIDAS) installed on both variants of the new aircraft.
Under a $21 million contract, Smiths Aerospace is to develop and supply a combined Health & Usage Monitoring System and Cockpit Voice and Flight Data Recorder (HUMS/CVFDR). Development will take place at the Smiths’ facilities in the UK and Michigan, U.S.
Thales UK is another company that will play a major role in Future Lynx by the provision of core elements of the avionics management, communications and navigation systems, as well as taking responsibility for the integration of some of the commercial off the shelf equipment within the navigation and communications sub-systems. Already fitted on a number of helicopters including the UK’s Chinook Mk 2/2As, as well as the Australian MRH-90 and Tigers, the Thales’ Secure Communications Control System is at the heart of Future Lynx communications system.
Both Army and Navy variants of Future Lynx can detect distant targets by use of a stabilized electro-optic device, which enables third party designation of targets, particularly for Apache attack helicopters.