Marking the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the Westland Lynx, Dr Kevin Wright describes the development of this versatile helicopter and its successor, the Leonardo AW159 Wildcat
The Lynx helicopter had a baptism of fire in combat as far back as 1982, when it played a key role in the Falklands conflict, but its flight debut had been more than a decade earlier. This event came four years after the 1967 Anglo-French aviation co-operation agreement had included the concept for the helicopter in its plans. The then WG13 project was led by Yeovil, Somerset-based Westland Helicopters working with the French company Aérospatiale.
Flown by a two-person crew, its most advanced element was an unusual monobloc rotor head. Designed with the Bristol Siddeley BS360 engine, the type’s performance was transformed when this was developed into the Rolls-Royce Gem, which was used by nearly all Lynxes. The Gem turned the WG13 into a fast, agile and capable helicopter.