The British Army's remaining Lynx AH9 utility helicopters will be modified to AgustaWestland's improved AH9A configuration, following the recent receipt of Ministry of Defence approval to extend the effort to all 22 aircraft.
AgustaWestland late in 2009 delivered the first four of 12 Lynxes to be upgraded under an urgent operational requirement deal to support operations in Afghanistan, and said discussions were under way on an option to also adapt the service's additional 10 AH9 airframes.
"There has been a recent endorsement for all 22 AH9s to be upgraded, and for the out-of-service date to be extended to 2016," says Lt Col David Meyer, commanding officer of 7 (Training) Regiment at the School of Army Aviation at Middle Wallop, Hampshire.
AgustaWestland confirms: “The AH9A follow-on contract is likely to be this month.”
Now equipped with more powerful Honeywell/Rolls-Royce LHTEC CTS800-4N engines, hybrid analogue/digital cockpits and secure communications equipment, the army's first AH9As will soon be deployed to Afghanistan.
The modified type will be capable of operating under the hot weather conditions experienced in the country between May and September, unlike the baseline AH9 model.
Lynx pilots will undergo a 5h conversion course before operating the AH9A, plus seven weeks of specific training on the type.
Meanwhile, Meyer told IQPC's Military Flight Training conference in London that the army intends to overhaul its current training system to better prepare aircrew to operate its Westland/Boeing Apache AH1 attack helicopters and next-generation Lynx Wildcats.
"Our frontline types are outstripping the training fleet, and we need to close that gap," he says. The service also wants to address its current "disparate and broken" training model, which uses three separate locations, and move to all-rotary instruction, he adds.
After receiving basic fixed-wing instruction, British Army pilots undergo initial rotorcraft training using the UK Defence Helicopter Flying School's single-engined Eurocopter AS350 Squirrel HT2s. But Meyer says the demands of operating types such as the Apache and Lynx Wildcat mean that training is "not about sticks and poles anymore".