The recent delivery of the last of 16 AgustaWestland Super Lynx 300 helicopters to the Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) has boosted export prospects for a program that is extending the life of a highly successful design. Oman has bought the Super Lynx, powered by two Rolls-Royce/Honeywell LHTEC CTS800 engines, to replace aging single-engine Bell 205s–an application that should be of interest to other operators of the venerable Huey.
The Omani Super Lynxes fly in a particularly harsh environment, where a mission may begin at sea level in temperatures as high as 113 degrees F and make a landing at 10,000 feet in the mountainous region at a more moderate temperature of 68 degrees F, before returning to its sweltering base. Add the challenging environment of sand and dust and the Super Lynx certainly has to prove its durability in the Arabian Gulf.
The Westland-designed Lynx traces its origins to 1968 when, under an Anglo-French agreement, three collaborative military helicopter programs began. But the Lynx was never produced in as great a quantity as partner Aerospatiale’s Gazelle and Puma models.
Nonetheless, the UK-produced aircraft remains one of the most competitive naval helicopters and in its Super Lynx form is still winning hard-fought competitions. Malaysia, Thailand and South Africa are among other customers for the much-upgraded helo.
The general-purpose and utility version of the original Lynx for army use fared less well in export markets, even though the British Army has remained an enthusiastic operator, encouraging a series of refinements to the twin Rolls-Royce Gem-powered model. Indeed, the Future Lynx model selected earlier this year by the UK Ministry of Defence for operation in land and sea environments will provide the British forces with a helicopter that incorporates Super Lynx 300 developments. This new model will have CTS800 engines that deliver 36 percent more power than the earlier Gems.
But Future Lynxes will not enter service for several years, making the RAFO the launch customer for the land-based version of the new helicopter. However, the Omani Super Lynxes will not be limited to operating over tough terrain, as one of their roles is to provide search-and-rescue (SAR) services over both land and sea. For this, the full-authority digital engine control of the CTS800s permits maximum takeoff weight operations even in hot-and-high conditions.
Furthermore, should an engine fail while operating over water, the remaining 1,361 shp CTS800 will ensure the safety of the crew. This is important for crew confidence because Oman has undertaken to help monitor the Arabian waterways to protect the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a task previously given to the aging Skyvan light transport aircraft. The improved performance of the Super Lynx has enabled the radius of search-and-rescue tasks to be extended from 100 to 180 nm.
SAR is just one of many roles that the new helicopter can perform. Smuggling in this region is almost a tradition, so the helicopter’s 360-degree chin-mounted radar and nose-mounted forward-looking infrared sensor are important aids to policing coastal waters.
Weapon options for the Super Lynx include a pintle-mounted machine gun, anti-tank missiles and others yet to be installed. However, a head-up display together with a data management system will both simplify weapons integration and their use by the crew. Another aid to the crew is the four Smiths liquid-crystal displays. The Omani aircraft are also the first Super Lynxes to be fitted with a health-and-usage monitoring system.
Armored crashworthy crew seats, a defensive aids suite and wire-strike protection also add to crew confidence as they undertake troop transport, armed escort and border security tasks in addition to SAR. Some of these may add to the maintenance burden but VT Aerospace has been contracted to provide skilled technicians on a number of RAFO bases. Company instructors provide training both on a flight simulator and at he Salalah base.