Westland Lynx AH.7: Westland's cat gets new Claws

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Introduction: The Lynx AH.1 was the main utility and anti-armour helicopter of the British Army from the late 1970’s, and was a reliable workhorse that served well in Central Europe during peacetime, as well as on in combat in the deserts of Iraq during Operation Granby in 1991. By the 1980’s, a modernisation was necessary in order to keep the helicopter up to date and serving well into the next century, which would ultimately enter service in the early 1990’s as the Lynx AH.7.

Description: The Lynx AH.7 story began in the late 80’s, when it became apparent that a modernisation of the Lynx was needed to keep the helicopter current with emerging threats and new technologies. Westland had experimented with the Lynx 3, a radical improvement upon the Lynx, but this would never enter productions. Despite this, it did that prove certain systems were viable, and these were implemented on the modernisation. These technologies included composite BERP (British Experimental Rotor Program) blades, as well as new sighting, countermeasure and onboard electronic systems. At the same time, Westland was developing the AH.5, essentially a Lynx AH.1 with more powerful engine, as the new service helicopter. At some point, it was decided to combine certain elements from the Lynx 3 and AH.5 and create the AH.7. The main difference between the AH.5 and 7 was the composite rotor blades, a reinforced airframe and an improved defensive aid subsystem. The AH.7 was initially fitted with the Marconi Sky Guardian Mk.15 RWR and by the mid-1990’s they were using ARI 2349. The AN/ALQ-144 was added around the same time, giving a DIRCM capability. During the Invasion of Iraq, AH.7s were also outfitted with AN/AAR-47 MAWS and AN/AAR-57, as well as M130 and M147 flare and chaff dispensers.

Service: The AH.7 began entering service in the early 1990’s, though they would not see action in Operation Granby, as there were worries about supply chain issues. Instead, some AH.1s were modified to partial AH.7 standard and were designated AH.1GT (though this is to be left for a future post). The AH.7s would first see action in Northern Ireland against the IRA, with one being fitted with the Chancellor TV IR system to track movements. One Lynx was lost in 1994 whilst attempting to land at Crossmaglen Army Base when it was hit by an improvised mortar. The pilot managed to land the helicopter safely and all personnel on board survived, but the helicopter was a write-off. In 1999, the type was used in the Kosovo War, in order to support ground forces deployed to the region after the bombing campaign. In 2000, the AH.7 would be used to support peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone. The type was also used in the same theatre during Operation Barras, a hostage rescue operation to free six soldiers held by the West Side Boys. The AH.7 would also be the main utility helicopter in both Afghanistan and Iraq. This was due to it being lighter than the AH.9, and thus, being better equipped for the arid climates of the region. Despite this, the AH.7 did still face issues due to the hot weather, mainly in the fact it was operating with no power reserves, making overshoots hard, if not impossible. These issues would later be resolved by the AH.9A. The helicopters were used for communications, overwatch, troop insertion, fire support and supply delivery. In 2006, an AH.7 was shot down of Basra by a MANPADS, killing all on board. The dead included Wing Commander Coxen, the highest ranking member of the British armed forces killed in the conflict, and Flight Lieutenant Sarah-Jayne Mulvihill, the first British servicewoman to die in combat in 22 years. AH.7s would also routinely take part in exercises all over the world, from both land and sea. The type would be retired in 2015 alongside the AH.9, in favour of the Wildcat, ending nearly 40 years of Lynx service in the British Army.

Performance:

Spoiler
Main Rotor Diameter 42 ft
Length 50 ft
Height 12 ft 3 in.
Weight 10, 747 lbs (loaded)
Maximum Speed 184 mph
Service Ceiling 10,600 ft
Range 322 miles
Engines Two Rolls-Royce Gem 41-1 turboshafts with 1,120 horsepower each
Crew 3
Armament Hellfire, FITOW, CRV7 rockets, 20mm Oerlikon cannons, FN-ENTA 7.62mm gun pods, M134 7.62mm gatling gun

Conclusion: I believe that this would be a great helicopter for higher tiers between the Lynx AH.1 and Apache, allowing the Lynx AH.1 to go down in BR and fill some gaps currently existing in the heli tree. It can also be added as a part of the larger expansion of the British helicopter tree, which has a lot of its equipment currently missing. Special thanks to @da12thmonkey for all the help, information and patience he showed me during the making of this suggestion.

Sources:

Spoiler

WESTLAND LYNX AH.7 - Pima Air & Space

[1.0] Skeeter & Wasp / Army Lynxes

Westland Lynx Anti-Tank, ASW and Transport Helicopter | MilitaryToday.com

Westland Lynx AH7

Westland Lynx AH.7 (1980) | Air & Ground Aviation

British Army & Royal Marine Aviation - Lynx

Google Books

Westland Lynx AH7 XZ196 | Westland Lynx AH7 XZ196 with rotor… | Flickr

Westland Lynx - Wikipedia

XZ182 | Westland Lynx AH.7 | United Kingdom - Royal Marines | Bob Wood | JetPhotos

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The UK really needs more choppers, and this looks like a great addition!

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