So powerful, it can blow a sub out of the water… Army unveils fleet of £26m Wildcat combat helicopters
State-of-the-art chopper will be part of military operations from 2014
Wildcat will replace Lynx fleet, which has served the Fleet Air Arm loyally since the mid-70s
New aircraft has more powerful engines so it operates well in extreme ‘high and hot’ conditions such as in Afghanistan
By Ian Drury
PUBLISHED: 14:14, 11 July 2012 | UPDATED: 14:15, 11 July 2012
Bristling with a fearsome armoury of weapons, this is the latest scourge of Britain’s enemies.
The £26million Wildcat combat helicopter, unveiled today, will be deployed to crush Taliban fighters, pirates, drug-smugglers and terrorists.
The state-of-the-art multi-role chopper – so powerful it can blow a submarine out of the water – will play a vital role in military operations for the Army and Royal Navy from 2014.
The sophisticated aircraft’s primary task will be to protect soldiers on the battlefield and the Royal Navy’s fleet around the world.
The craft has been designed to carry out a raft of other missions including cargo transport, casualty evacuation, troop carrying, surveillance, and search and rescue
But it is designed to carry out a raft of other missions including cargo transport, casualty evacuation, troop carrying, surveillance, and search and rescue.
It was being displayed for the first time for Defence Secretary Philip Hammond at the Farnborough International Air Show this morning.
He was joined at the display by the head of the Army General Sir Peter Wall and Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, the First Sea Lord.
Mr Hammond said: ‘This new fleet of Wildcat helicopters will provide a fantastic capability for our Armed Forces – on land and at sea.’
He added: ‘Wildcat represents a considerable advance over the current Lynx helicopters, bringing greatly improved performance and capability.
‘The contract to provide training and support will keep them flying wherever they are needed.
‘These helicopters will be a key part of the future equipment programme for the Armed Forces that will see £160billion spent over the next ten years.
‘By balancing the budget, we can deliver the airframes and the millions of pounds of support they require.’
Wildcat will replace the current trusted Lynx fleet, which has served the Fleet Air Arm loyally since the mid-70s.
It has more powerful engines so it operates well in extreme ‘high and hot’ conditions such as in Afghanistan, where the air is thinner and dustier.
The fuselage is protected with a composite material similar to that used for soldiers’ body armour so it is difficult to pierce by enemies firing weapons from the ground.
The Wildcat can carry forward-firing rockets, machine guns, door-mounted mounted machine guns, an air-to-surface system and can deploy torpedoes and depth charges.
The twin-engine helicopter is also kitted out with state-of-the-art radar to search for enemy ships and vehicles, penetrating sonar to hunt for subs and electronic surveillance measures such as 360-degree infrared imaging cameras.
Manned by two crew members and carrying up to seven passengers, the helicopter is also able to fend off missile attacks with a sophisticated self-defence suite.
The Wildcat can carry forward-firing rockets, machine guns, door-mounted mounted machine guns, an air-to-surface system and can deploy torpedoes and depth charges
The glass cockpit will allow the pilots to read information from computer screens rather than old dials and instruments.
General Sir Peter Wall said: ‘This is an excellent helicopter, which is very important to the Army Air Corps. We will be seeking to get it fully operational as soon as possible.’
The full £1.6billion order includes 62 new helicopters: 34 Army Wildcat from 2014 and 28 Royal Navy Wildcat from 2015, which will fly from the decks of frigates and destroyers.
Sir Mark Stanhope said: ‘Wildcat represents the latest generation of multi-role helicopter that has been specifically procured to operate from ships of the Royal Navy.
‘With state-of-the-art sensors, equipment and weapons, it will be an outstanding asset that will maintain Royal Naval units at the cutting edge of worldwide maritime operations.’
Mr Hammond also confirmed that the helicopter’s Somerset-based manufacturer AgustaWestland will benefit from a £250million Wildcat support contract, sustaining 500 jobs.
The name Wildcat recalls the name given to the Grumman F4F which was widely used during the Second World War.
The aircraft ceased operational service in 1945 but some remain flying, including one in the collection of the Imperial War Museum Duxford.
Wildcat will replace the current trusted Lynx (above) fleet, which has served the Fleet Air Arm loyally since the mid-70s