NAVY NEWS, OCTOBER 2010 The cat’s whiskers
CATS rely on their whiskers in a tight spot, and the Royal Navy’s new Wildcat is no different.
whiskers is that too much information could bamboozle the brain, and the same risk applies to the sophisticated sensors on the Lynx replacement.
trials at the AgustaWestland site in Yeovil has been to allow aircrew members to try out the new systems in a series of simulations. One such trial, lasting three involved six experienced
Lynx crews, with the programme split into two phases. The first assessed the latest
version of the tactical processor software, including the human- machine interface – a source of some initial disquiet. “Before this trial took place there had been a concern that the amount of information available from the sensor suite would have been too much for a two-man crew to assimilate,” said Lt Paddy McWilliams, of 700 (Wildcat) Naval Air Squadron.
“But the feedback from both the operators and simulator staff has alleviated these initial fears.” The second part of the
experiment was to analyse software in the thermal imager. “This software, developed by DSTL and QinetiQ, is part of a wider study concerning above- water warfare and the fusion of RF [radio frequency] and electro- optic data to lessen the workload of operators,” said Lt McWilliams. “These sorties were based
So one of the main objectives of The trouble with sensitive
● A computer-created image of the Navy’s new Wildcat helicopter
Picture courtesy Agusta Westland Overall, the trial was declared
upon force protection scenarios and culminated with search and prosecution of swarm attacks from fast attack craft. “It quickly became clear that the cockpit design and sensor suite allowed the crew to detect, classify and attack threats within a matter of seconds.”
a success, with all six crews being impressed by the Wildcat’s tactical system and its intuitive feel. There is also considerable work being done to integrate the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW), which will enable the Wildcat to tackle targets ranging from jet-skis to small corvettes – the programme encompasses two missiles, the lighter a laser-beam guided rocket and the heavier a heat-seeking missile. The AW159 Lynx Wildcat will replace the current Lynx Marks 3 and 8, which have been the workhorses for the destroyer and frigate community for more than
The RN is due to take delivery of 28 of the new aircraft, with the first one scheduled to be handed over in late 2012. The programme is a collaboration between the RN and the British Army, with the aircraft featuring a significant amount of commonality, which has advantages not only in the cost
of introducing, running
and maintaining the aircraft, but also in the test and evaluation programme.
The dark blue version – the
Wildcat HMA Mark 1 – will be fitted with an impressive array of sensors, including a 360-degree
E-scan radar capable of tracking 100 contacts.
There will also be an electro- turret housing a thermal
imager, two TV cameras and up to three laser sensors.
The helicopter is expected to enter service with a tactical data link to ensure it is fully hooked up to friendly units as it carries out its tasks.
700 (Wildcat) NAS, based at
RN Air Station Yeovilton, has been given the responsibility of bringing the aircraft into service. Commissioned
in May last
year, the squadron consists of a small team of aircrew who all have experience in aircraft trials
work – a crucial factor in making a potentially-fraught process run as smoothly as possible. Calling in expertise from other squadrons to ensure the right decisions are made during development, the squadron will work on the tactical role of the aircraft,
and will also design a suitable conversion
operating procedures course
for Lynx aircrew.
A plan for the flying activities which will support that programme is being worked on now in the hope that squadron staff will get the machine airborne by the start of 2013, shortly after the delivery of the first Navy Wildcat.
New kit for Jungly gunners
AIR crews in the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) got their hands on a new and improved door gun ahead of 16 Air Assault Brigade’s deployment to Afghanistan this month. Aviators with 846 Naval Air Squadron began to train with the FN Herstal M3M .50-in calibre weapon system while supporting the assault brigade on final training exercises on Salisbury Plain in the summer.
The Mk 4 Sea Kings of the
CHF, which have been supporting Operation Herrick since 2007, can now be armed with either the 7.62mm general purpose machine gun (GPMG) or the M3M – the heavier weapon has only recently been cleared for operational use by the Junglies.
It means the Sea Kings can
now be used to attack as well as being able to defend themselves, allowing the CHF to undertake a wider range of missions. Lt Cdr Nigel Gates, Aviation
Warfare Officer at CHF Command, said: “The M3M is able to put down a higher rate of fire than the GPMG and, being .50-calibre instead of 7.62mm, each round obviously has greater effect.”
He said that the greater range meant the helicopter could operate from a safer distance or altitude.
“The Sea King is a good stable
platform for this weapon and we are confident this will give us significant extra capability in support of ground units,” he added.
The M3M is already in use with other UK military aircraft, including the Navy’s Mk 8 Lynx (as embarked in HMS Gloucester – see p3) and the Army Air Corps’ Mk9A Lynx, which have recently been deployed to Afghanistan.
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