It’s the Way You Tell Em!

Like any joke, it’s the way you tell it that makes a good one great.

The same goes for the Major Projects Report 2009, issued by the MOD on 15th December, with special regard to the AW159 Lynx Wildcat. The Future Lynx Wildcat is one of our favourite subjects, in a large pool of MoD debacles the Wildcat is in the Premiere League vying for the top slot with Nimrod MRA4, Astute and a few others.

The Report states that:

a decision was taken to reduce the number of helicopters being procured to 34 from 45 for the land variant, and to 28 from 35 for the maritime variant, an overall decrease of 23 per cent. The Department expects the reduction in the number of helicopters to deliver an overall saving of £194 million (10 per cent) in equipment costs over the next ten years, plus an additional reduction in the cost of capital. Further savings are expected to accrue from the associated decrease in the number of crews required to 72 from 110 and in support costs over the life of the fleet.’

However, a little digging reveals things are not quite what they seem, so a look back is informative…

Future Lynx gets an official mention in March 2002, when Dr Lewis Moonie MP (Parliamentary Under Secretary, MoD) in a written answer stated that the Future Lynx  proposal was being considered for the Surface Combatant Maritime Rotorcraft project.

A few months later Adam Ingram MP (Minister of State (Armed Forces) replied to another written parliamentary question with a statement in which the Battlefield Light Utility Helicopter requirement might also be met with Future Lynx.

BLUH eventually became the Battlefield Reconnaissance requirement, cut forward to 2006 and the MoD decided not to issue a competitive tender but instead to form a strategic partnering arrangement with AgustaWestland and proceed with Future Lynx. The term ‘value for money’ started to appear in relation to this very cosy partnering arrangement and the benefits of reusing parts of the existing fleet would further enhance value for money (more on this later)

In 2006 the Lynx Wildcat, or Future Lynx as it was then known, was ordered by the MOD. This allowed for a firm order of 70 aircraft at an estimated cost of £1billion (there was an option for an additional 10 aircraft but this was never exercised).

This was re-confirmed by Bob Ainsworth to Parliament on 30 April 2008. This gave a unit cost, not including development, training, spares and the like of around £10 – 12million.

In a December 2007 article in Flight Global, David Hillcoat, AgustaWestland’s head of the Future Lynx programme stated, “Any savings that we make are shared between the MoD and AgustaWestland. But any overspend above the maximum is at the company’s liability.”

A target and maximum price having been agreed between the MoD and AgustaWestland

In response to a question posed by Douglas Carswell MP at the end of December 2007, Bob Ainsworth MP stated that Future Lynx was selected because it provided the best mix of capability, cost and risk.

On 11 December 2008, the Future Lynx numbers were reduced to 62 (34 Army, 28 Royal Navy) with no change to the budget.

In January 2009 Quentin Davies declined to provide a breakdown of savings due to the reduction in numbers because of commercial sensitivity.

In a written response to Liam Fox MP, Quentin Davies confirmed that the forecast cost of Future Lynx was £1.968billion, a staggering doubling in cost despite 8 less aircraft being obtained.

By 20 July 2009, Quentin Davies confirmed to Parliament, in what seems like a contradictory figure to the previous one, that the total cost of the 62 Future Lynx was £1.7billion.

The much vaunted strategy of reusing components from the existing fleet now seems in tatters, less than 5% of components will be reused.

The Major Projects Report 2009 now states that the expected cost to completion for the Lynx Wildcat is now £1.669 billion against an approved cost of £1.966 billion, a saving of £297 million. The £1.7 billion figure quoted by Quentin Davies seems to be the lowest forecast/approved figure.

Rejoice rejoice, the MoD has managed to come in under budget, Christmas must be here.

Hold on there, this is the MoD, surely this is some mistake.

About a third of this reduction has come from risk differentials, cost of capital and other accounting/project related costs. The cost savings accrued by reducing the airframe numbers t0 62 is £194 million, roughly a 10% cost savings

For both the Army and Naval version of Future Lynx it seems that some Key Performance Measures are at risk of not being met, despite the massive investment. The report does state that this reduction will only affect a small number of mission profiles and if money can be found at a later date then it could be reintroduced.

On the 16th of December the Yeovil Express reports that the local MP (David Laws) and the Secretary of State for Defence (Bob Ainsworth) have exchanged letters (obviously the local MP isn’t too happy about the MoD buying 20 odd Chinooks from Boeing rather than more Merlins from Agusta Westland) and in these letters Bob Ainsworth wrote of “the possibility that we might increase our order for Wildcat Future Lynx”

Nearly double the cost of the original budget yet still a few things that don’t meet requirements that will require even more money in the future to fix. We have cut the order but are now considering increasing it.

62 is a ridiculously small number, especially as it is now obvious that the ratio of ‘available for service’ to ‘not available for service’ because of maintenance, training and other  issues is relatively high, meaning that the Army will likely be able to field around 10 on a continuous basis and the RN even less.

It might not be so bad if the aircraft was worth the £27 million each (total cost divided by total airframe numbers, yes, we know that is not the complete picture) but it is not.

When discussing unit costs one must always exercise caution because the total cost divided by the total numbers is not a unit cost because the total cost will include everything from manuals to simulators to spare parts to training.

The NH90, using a similar ‘extras included’ price seems to be on average approximately £22 million each.

So, did you hear the one about value for money?

It’s the way you tell em.

 

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Phil Darley
December 20, 2009 6:45 pm

So the question we all want answering…. Why the fcuk did they choose the Future Lynx??? What hold have Westland ( now an Italian company!!!) have over the MoD. It is clear that from a operational point of view a purchase of Merlin’s would have made more sense for the Navy. Even the T23 frigates can operate the Merlin, so sixe cannot really be an issue. The Merlin HM1/2 is fully marinised and can do more than the Wildcat could ever hope to do.

For the Army the Blackhawk (especially with the RTM 322 engine) would have been perfect.

So why did they choose the Wildcat? If they really wanted an aircraft of that size, they could have selected the AW139. Surely it can’t be that this is the only helicopter that the UK has designed!!! is that it, we want to keep a number of UK helicopters in employment, even if they work for an Italian conglomerate. How many people are we actually looking at here? It cannot be more than a dozen or so. £1,7bn for 12 UK nationals…. seems a total waste of money to me, especially as the aircraft is no great shakes either…

thedarknight
December 21, 2009 1:13 pm

This just can’t continue. Surely we’ve hit a brick wall with the financial troubles and things will actually have to change.

Euan Stewart
December 21, 2009 5:10 pm

Phil asks what hold does Augusta Westland have over the MoD, well I think the question should be the other way round what hold does the MoD have over Augusta Westland.

The hold Augusta Westland has over the MoD is simply Jobs and the fact that it is the only location in the UK that can manufacture helicopters so if we don’t keep them happy they will walk. The MoD needs AW more than they need the MoD because if AW decide to leave Yeovil the UK will be totally dependent on buying helicopters made abroad and will no longer be able to upgrade or modify such aircraft in the UK. Furthermore the local MP will always be whispering in the ears of others to try and keep AW happy and him in employment so every angle will be exploited and the chasms skimmed over.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again I think the factory should be bought from AW essentially separated from the design side so that the facilities can be used to manufacture any helicopter that the UK needs. In other words competitions will focus just that little bit more on the merits of a design so the armed forces and all concerned get some consideration of their criteria. I’m not saying that UK design skills should be ditched they could be a separate design house along the lines of BMT that gets funded to ensure skills remain. It would of course have to be commercially viable and subject to the rules of natural selection not another leech so if it fails then tough cookie they should have managed their affairs better.

The Dark Knight when do brick walls stop politicians? the government finances hit a brick wall a long, long time ago but look at the NHS it’s budgets manage to grow each year and the same happens with other socialist projects. Some Governments don’t last long enough to justify doing a good job as they must make decisions that please the voters no matter how daft they may be. Others last too long that decisions they make are not subject to scrutiny for a very long time and they become lumbering monoliths. The major reason why there is no investment in infrastructure is that it takes years to produce results and diverts funds from popular socialist projects that could get someone re-elected. Governments know that they might not be there long enough so don’t make a sensible coordinated long term plan that has a chance of producing good results instead they have to concentrate on short term populist policies. For instance this is why defence is in such a shambles everything ideally needs to be thought out for the long term and coordinated. Such as in shipbuilding it takes years from signing a contract to the first ship being in service so results come too late to be of much worth to a government. Contracts also span many governments and everyone wants to make their own changes fiddling with it which then pushes dates back and costs more money. For example many of the projects such as Nimrod, Merlin, and Type 45 etc were not Labour projects they were started by the last government and have since been cut and fiddled with driving costs through the roof and delaying in service dates. It has long been noted that the chancellor now the PM sees the MoD and armed forces as a parasite.

DominicJ
December 21, 2009 6:20 pm

Jobs are less clear cut than you’d think.

Although AW could close its UK factory and sack all the workers, the workers would still exist, it would be far from impossible for another business to buy the same premises, employ the same staff, and start building the MoD’s helicopter needs.

That of course doesnt preclude AW convincing the MoD that wildcat is value for money, or, that if you want helicopters built in Britain, thats the cost of them, either lose the capability, or pay the price.

If you compare the cost of a T45 (£1,000m) to a Arleigh Burke(£400m), or a QE(£2,000m) to an America(£1200)(ok, not the best example that one) or Wasp(£500), Lynx actually doesnt look bad.
Its just the price of doing business in the UK.

If the MoD say they will buy a product from AW no matter what, its directors would be criminally negligent if it failed to screw the MoD for every penny they could.

Euan Stewart
December 21, 2009 9:26 pm

Fair point Dominic but who would buy the factory? The UK orders pitifully few helicopters as it is so it would seem unlikely that any of the major helicopter manufactures would buy it. Even following my idea the buyer would need to get an agreement with the main manufacturers before they would consider buying up. Augusta Westland owns it currently and the other players Eurocopter and Sikorsky already have large production facilities and would be unlikely to buy up. The UK would still need helicopters so the MoD would be forced to buy off the shelf from either of them and they would not be inclined to take the risk and buy the factory. One thing I would like to know is would the UK Government or MoD own the designs for the Merlin and Lynx both of which were largely paid for by UK taxpayers money? If they (AW) decided to leave I would want the designs to remain UK property so that if someone bought the factory we could still produce those machines and sell them. For instance if Sikorsky bought the factory they should also be given the rights to market the Merlin and Lynx but the lines get fuzzy would they own the design so could build it in the USA or borrow bits of its design etc . I personally think adding the designs to the Sikorsky portfolio would be interesting as it gives them a light naval helicopter and a medium helicopter that slots in above the Seahawk although they already have the S-92.

Phil Darley
December 22, 2009 12:23 pm

Ewan, I don’t have a problem with them buying AW products per se, my complaint is the selection of thw AW159 “Wildcat” in particularr and of course the pricee. The price you can sort of justify if it keeps jobs and technology in the UK; but they could have ordered any number of AW products AW139, Merlin, and NH90. So why did they go for that product???

jed
jed
December 22, 2009 7:38 pm

Ref: “One thing I would like to know is would the UK Government or MoD own the designs for the Merlin and Lynx both of which were largely paid for by UK taxpayers money? If they (AW) decided to leave I would want the designs to remain UK property so that if someone bought the factory we could still produce those machines and sell them.”

No the intellectual property does NOT belong to the MOD – the MOD did not design the helicopters, the commercial entities designed them to fulfill a requirement put for by the UK Govt. So the designs now belong to AugustWestland, the current commercial entity in existence. The UK government has no right at all to sell the plant to EuroCopter or Sikorsky for example and expect them to build the AW101 in Yeovil.

As Dominic suggested this is pure politics – loose the capability or pay the price.

However as someone else noted, we buy paltry amounts of helo’s, there has been no regular “drum beat’ of procurement so once again, in reality our lack of investment has already made the AW Yeovil plan unsustainable. It could of course serve AW as a UK ‘service centre” for AW helo’s with nothing actually being built there, maybe thats the logical next step.

Otherwise, with a crappy defence budget any government need to stop kidding the public and either buy direct from AW (built in Italy), Eurocopter (built in France, Germany or Spain, depending on the aircraft) or Sikorsky (good’ol US of A) or Bell (assembled in Canada ?).

Grim
December 22, 2009 9:19 pm

Jed, there is another alternative. The UK government could reintroduce the Defence Export Organisation and actually try and drum up some sales for the UK produced helos.

Why is it that whenever the defence sector in the UK is talked about now, people assume that if the MOD aren’t buying enough then the sector is no longer sustainable. I know that decent sized defence exports have been scarce in recent years (minus one large Typhoon order) but it doesn’t mean we’re somehow incapable of producing for export customers any more or that we’re incapable of attracting foreign interest if we actually go out and try.

There have been so many missed opportunities in recent years which could have provided vitally needed orders to our dwindling arms producers.

Oh and one final point, why are you all assuming that a Wildcat wouldn’t have won a competitive tender, the Lynx has sold well, especially in the maritime arena, so is it so hard to assume that a British product may actually have potential?

I’ll leave some other points from your comments that really should be addressed because I can’t be bothered for now.

Euan Stewart
December 23, 2009 12:16 am

Phil, I suspect that Augusta Westland wanted to develop the next Lynx and the Royal Navy wanted a new lynx which put pressure on the MoD and politicians to chose the option to develop what is almost an entirely new aircraft. Sure the Super Lynx would have been good enough but there is not enough of an upgrade between the current Lynx HMA.8 and Super Lynx to seriously justify replacing the fleet. The R&D needed enforces UK design skills as well as helping the advanced aerospace manufacturers in the UK such as those making composites etc. Furthermore the Lynx line is one of the 2 helicopter types that is built in the UK as far as I’m aware the other being the Merlin so choosing something else would require an entire new line to be set up duplicating the Verigate facility. An option with the AW139 could have been to bring the airframes in from Italy and modifying them in the UK fitting naval equipment specific to the RN but we would not be producing them.

As people should have gathered I’m not against the AW159 but I think it is flawed as it should have been a ground up new light naval helicopter to replace the Super Lynx rather than another update. Although the update idea is fine as it is quite extensive the aircraft is pretty small and given the requirements for crash resistant seating etc it is too small. Ideally the whole order should have been a naval order as that is what the aircraft excels at and as the helicopters would all be identical it could lower costs as they could all be on the one main production line. The aircraft would only then have been subject to one set of requirements from the RN and I would guess they know what they want. The Army could then have bought something else based on what their needs are whether that is more Merlin helicopters or an imported type as the order would no doubt be too small to make a UK line viable. I would personally advocate waiting for the AW-149 and then placing a large order of around 120 aircraft with the requirement that they are built in the UK with maximum UK content.

Jed your right the future for Yeovil could be as a service centre to simply maintain the aircraft for the nearby RNAS as well as other UK based AW products. The simple fact is Yeovil only really makes helicopters for the MoD nobody else, granted there are a few Lynx ordered here and there but no commercial work. In regards to the designs I think if AW does pull out of the UK they should be forced to sell or give the design rights to the UK Government as we paid a hefty price for them and the profit went to Italy.

Grim you have an excellent point but it would not be the current Government that would do it the best hope is the Tories do what they said they would and reinstate it. Equipment would need to be ready to go before people actually bought anything as UK projects are suicidal to get involved in before they reach production and IOC. There would also need to be some thought put into projects regarding exports for example new build Nimrod’s would have sold well but pressure would need to be applied from DEO to ensure the aircraft were new so that they could go ahead and market them.

DominicJ
December 23, 2009 8:32 am

I dont think anyone argues that the Lynx is a bad Maritime Helicoptor, I dont know enough to be sure, and cant really see why its a better/more cost effective platform than a Merlin or an Apache, but it isnt bad.
Isnt it operable from virtualy everything in the fleet?

Had it just been an order for 1 Lynx per ship + maintainance, training and such, there wouldnt be such a fuss.
Thinking about it, if there wasnt a proviso for 7 passengers, presumably the actual model used by the Navy would be much better as well?

Its the army order that is the real waste.

Regarding the DEO, I was never clear what that actualy did, considering BAE’s marketing department was such that it rented it out to SAAB for the Gripen.
Was it a body that sorted out which side we were supposed to sell to during a war and pushed through technology transfer type stuff?

Although I’d be happy for the British Governments response to the question
“Why is BAE selling small arms to Mugabe?”
To be
“Because his cheques clear”/”Because he pays Cash/Gold/Oil/Gas/Copper/Diamonds in advance”

I really wouldnt bank on that happening if Cameron heads the next government.

Phil Darley
December 23, 2009 12:01 pm

Ewan, I think they missed a trick with the AW159. The difference in size between it and the 139 is small but significant. If they had used the 139 airframe as the basis and turned the 139 in to a true MRH Multi-Role Helicopter (marinesed airframe and avionics etc.) but still large enough to carry a full infantry section it would have been ideal. With the 139 selling so well and the Coastguard about to buy a load dor SAR it was a win win position. The 159 just does not make any sense what’s so ever, with a 139 based helo the options and spin-off orders could have been significant. We have now built another UK centric design at great cost with very little export potential. Just a thought we don’t they transfer the upgraded Puma’s to the AAC. This would plug the utility gap for the army, it would also give them a strong case for getting a new helo to replace it in 2022 when the Pumas goes out of service. That would leave the RAF with Chinooks only, the FAA essentially with Lynx and Merlin and the AAC with 3 types Lynx/Wildcat, Apache and Puma/NEW helo in 2022.

Euan Stewart
December 23, 2009 4:19 pm

Dominic fair point most people here are slating it for the Army role which is understandable, I think costs could have been lower if the entire order was just directed to the Navy so there would be only one set of design requirements. It might not have saved much but the main thing that drives cost up is things being changed so it could still have made a dent. Your other point about just using the Merlin is logical as buying more drives the individual cost lower and has knock on benefits from only having to support a single RN helicopter. The flaw with the idea is that the Lynx is cheaper to maintain as it is smaller and much simpler the AW159 especially is made from far lower component count which should help drive availability upwards. Furthermore even although the Merlin can operate off of all the current vessels in the fleet I think for instance the future C3 might not be able to support the Merlin. I also still think we need something small fast and light for maritime strike against small craft which the Merlin is a little large for and from what I can tell does not have the pylon option’s for the various missiles due to be use with the new lynx.

Phil your comment made me wonder so I went and checked the dimensions of each aircraft and respective weights having looked at that your right it a missed opportunity that could have worked well. The airframe design could have been used as a base for a new naval helicopter which could have been common with a new army support helicopter which would be win win for both the Army and RN. We can now wait till next year and hopefully the next Government has the common sense to get on the AW149 bandwagon and place a large order for the AAC what I mean by large is 120+ aircraft so that the UK actually has a support helicopter fleet to speak of. The Puma fleet upgrade is one of the worst decisions I think could have been made the plastic pig is old and needs replaced so blowing £300 Million on upgrades is a bit daft in my opinion. I would definitely if possible next year bin the contract but I’ve no idea how far it’s progressed but I would do everything to get rid of the fleet and replace them among other assets with a large AW149 fleet. I have a fairly good idea of what I would like to see in regards to the entire UK helicopter fleet but it’s probably got holes in it but I might put it down on paper at some point.

Dominic the DEO was basically a UK wide PR department with Government backing that could get UK Ministers to help promote our wares abroad as well as helping to negotiate ToT agreements. Arms sales restrictions were not part of its remit AFAIK that’s down to the wider Government although we mostly follow the US and EU in regards to restrictions. BAE will sell weapons to whoever it can to make money for its shareholders business is business and the UK Government is not a shareholder. I think we should be a shareholder after all most of the profit comes from the UK mod and if it works elsewhere e.g. EADS, Finmeccanica it could work here.

Btw, Admin do you have a name or do you want to stay nameless also how many people run this blog I as far as I can tell it could be just one hardworking individual.

DominicJ
December 23, 2009 5:35 pm

Sorry if that was unclear.

I wondered if,
The Lynx Wildcat, had it been designed exclusively as a maritime (ASuW/ASW) platform, and ordered on a 1 Ship 1 Lynx basis, plus spares for training, maintenance and losses, may have been a much cheaper much more effective piece of kit.

Phil Darley
December 23, 2009 5:35 pm

Ewan, I have been examining the respective 139 and 159 pdf’s for several weeks. The are so close its crazy. What is not clear is whether the airframe is fully marinised on the 139 but whatever requirements were for the 159 in that role I cannot believe that it could not have been accomplished within the 139 airframe. Its utility credentials are already proven.

admin
Admin
December 23, 2009 9:57 pm
Reply to  Euan Stewart

Who is ADMIN?
I would rather remain nameless for a variety of reasons but mostly because I would like the blog to be judged purely on content. At the minute the ‘we’ is just ‘me’

admin
Admin
December 23, 2009 10:02 pm
Reply to  Phil Darley

Agree, all roads lead the a 139/149 or maybe at a push an NH90 which seems to be about the same price as a Wildcat. A single airframe that replaces the Puma, Gazelle and Lynx (both variants) would deliver massive training, spares and maintenance savings, even more so if a common engine could be used as it would be if the NH90 were chosen. We would be left with a two engine type fleet

Does the proposed C3 actually need a helicopter hangar or just a landing pad…

A question for future posts!

Grim
December 24, 2009 12:12 am

Admin I know you said it’s a question for another post, but I think that C3 should indeed have a hangar. It is supposed to be a more ocean capable, expeditionary vessel compared to the minor combatant vessels it is replacing, making aviation facilities much more useful and necessary. Saying that though, making it large enough for a Merlin would go too far, which is where the Wildcat comes in handy.

In my opinion, it is an excellent choice for the RN, in the niche that neither a Merlin, nor our marinised Apaches can fill. Merlin’s are large unwieldy transport helos primarily, even if they can mount some weapons, doesn’t mean they’d be good attack platforms (which the RN surface fleet now heavily relies on its helos for), it’s obvious enough when you stick it next to any purpose built attack helicopter. The Apaches on the other hand, even with money put in to integrate all the maritime weapons it’d need, has zero transport capability. It doesn’t need to have a lot, even just enough to shuttle people between ships on occasion, but it is still more than an Apache has, unless anyone wanting shore leave is willing fly on the wings. The only way around that would to embark a Merlin AND an Apache on every ship = obviously stupid.

The Wildcat sits between the roles perfectly, as i’m sure a marinised 139/149 could, but let’s be honest it’d probably cost more and no one is currently looking for a maritime 139 or 149.

As for the army variant, I think my views are pretty much in line with those already posted. But I would say that whilst the Puma really should be gone as soon as possible, at least the upgrade will buy some time before having to make a multibillion pound purchase of new helos (which I hope will be a substantial 100+ AW149 buy. At present, I doubt the forces will be seeing any more helos bought after these Chinooks for some time, but by the 2020’s when the Pumas will go, they will need to make a large buy.

If I had my way, i’d be buying the AW149’s (+ the recent Chinook announcement) in large numbers now to replace the Pumas and make up for the overall shortfall in helos, transferring all Merlins to the RN to replace all the Seakings (plus a purchase of a few more to make up for the numbers deficit that will appear), and i’d turn the army Lynxes and Wildcats into dedicated CASEVAC/CSAR platforms.

Army
– Attack – Apache
-CASEVAC/CSAR – Lynx (Supplemented by the larger MERT Chinooks we currently use)
– Utility/transport – AW149 and RAF Chinooks

RN
– Attack – Wildcat (Supplemented by Apaches for assault role from LPH)
– ASW – Merlin
-ASAC – Merlin
– Transport – Wildcat/Merlin depending on ship size and task.

On a final note, I look forward to seeing more on what you have to say about the future make up of the RN.

Jed
Jed
December 24, 2009 4:09 pm

Gentlemen

Just step back a minute and look at the original requirements for the AW159 Lynx Wildcat:

1. Upgrade small ship helicopter for RN
2. Armed recce / scout for Army to find and fix targets for AH64

For all those who keep whining on about the AW139 / !49 being better than the WildCat, I have to say that for the stated purpose, it is NOT necessarily a better aircraft. However, could it undertake the role ? Undoubtedly, as a multi-role aircraft it could take on this role, but it would not be an ideal platform.

What we must confront is the amount of time it took for the MOD / Army to do something about what is basically a cold war requirement – and of course the much discussed political needs to keep Westlands jobs.

Similarly, the RN version Lynx was / is a pretty good platform, but it is now getting a little small, the RN versions can not be equipped as a “dipper” and so it in the ASW role it is just a vehicle for delivering torpedo’s as vectored by its mothership – probably a role that could be undertaken by an MQ8 type UAV.

However once again, things have moved on. All T23 and T45 can carry an Merlin HM1, so as long as the T22B3 replacement (should any ever be ordered) can also carry a HM1 (and why shouldn’t it) then the RN could easily have single type fleet of larger more versatile aircraft. If the C3 should arrive, with a hanger, then it too can carry a UAV. Of course this simplistic view somewhat neglects 3 Brigade Air Squadron (if its still called that) with an RM littoral / land attack role – but perhaps we would have to rely on the overstretched Army squadrons to put to sea for short periods when required.

So, while I am not defending the WildCat at all, it does in a perverse way, actually make more sense for the original Army requirement than it does for the Naval.

I do agree with most of you however that the requirement is no longer extant, in fact in a reversal of roles, a Longbow radar equipped Apache can be the scout for a couple of AW149’s carrying upto 16 dual mode Brimstone missiles each.

By the way Mr Grim, having spent a lot of time in the back of Lynxes as a Photographer in the RN Fleet Air Arm, there is no way on earth you are using the Lynx for CSAR, its just not big enough, CASEVAC at a push if there is nowt better, but no way CSAR – thats Merlin sized job; just ask the worlds best CSAR experts the USAF, they wanted to replace their MH60 Pave Hawks with the 3 engined US101 derivative before politicians and pork barrels got involved…….

Euan
December 25, 2009 9:45 pm

Hello ADMIN no problem, I was just curious as to who is behind Think Defence as it’s an excellent blog with excellent commenter’s. I’m going to leave detailed discussion about the Future Surface combatant classes to later posts but yes the C3 should have a hangar as it would perhaps be the most valuable feature for the role it will be doing most of the time.

Jed I thought the AW159 was to be equipped with a dipping sonar in RN service? Or do mean that it’s not a truly independent ASW platform such as the Merlin which has the endurance to search for a target and then kill it. Whereas the Lynx is sent to a rough location provided by a TAS system on a frigate and then dips to get a more accurate fix before dropping torpedoes, which could arguably be done by a UAV controlled from the frigate? I wouldn’t be against the RN only operating one helicopter type which would be possible as they could pass the Lynx fleet over to the Army to work with Apaches or provide cover for future AW149’s. There are many options which need to be explored and evaluated with proper costing and other information not easily available to us.

Phil Darley
December 26, 2009 10:35 am

Grim, Jed is absolutely right there is no way you could use the Wildcat for CASEVAC, let alone CSAR. I know its bigger than the existing Lynx, but you need something the size of a Blackhawk or NH90 for a really useful CASEVAC and for CSAR Jed is bang on. The HH71 (modified Merlin with 2 large side doors (that opened rearwards and thus did not obsure the side-mounted guns)excellent range payload and DAS, folding blades and tail that could be made ready for transport in C17 in minutes)) would have been the “Mutts Nuts” CSAR. I think we should configure the HC3/HC3a’s to a similar standard and by a few more that are built to the HH71 general configuration to supplement the Commando Helicopter Force and to provide a permanent CSAR capability. Ewan,Jed, Grim et al what’s the obsession with the AW149? This has only just made its maiden flight, is therefore totally unproven and will introduce another engine type to the UK Helicopter force. Surely we need to buy NH90s for the PUMA replacement. The MRH version as bought by the Australian’s but with the higher roof as specified by the Swedish and with side door opening reversed. Yes the NH90’s side doors open forward just like the Merlin HC3’s thus blocking the side gun window mount!!! This would standardise on the RTM322 engine and provides a genuine multi-role helicopter that can be deployed at sea along with the CHF’s Melin’s if required.

Happy New Year!!!