The British Army will begin operating its first upgraded Lynx AH9A utility helicopters in Afghanistan in April, with three of the type having undergone successful environmental trials in Kenya.

The UK Ministry of Defence contracted AgustaWestland in December 2008 to modify 12 of its legacy Lynx AH9s with more powerful Honeywell/Rolls-Royce LHTEC CTS800-4N engines. Satisfied with the results of the £50 million ($75.3 million) urgent operational requirement deal, it has now signed a follow-on contract worth £41.8 million to upgrade the service's 10 additional AH9s to the same standard.

Lt Col Mike McGinty, commanding officer of the Army Air Corps' 9 Regt, says the AH9A "represents a considerable improvement in performance over its predecessor. We anticipate that it will be a very valuable asset on operations in Afghanistan."

Lynx AH9A - AgustaWestland/MoD 
© AgustaWestland/Ministry of Defence

The MoD says the modified type will be used from April for tasks including convoy over-watch, reconnaissance and surveillance, personnel transport and in escorting support helicopters. Capable of carrying five passengers, the AH9A will be armed with a 12.7mm M3M gun.

AgustaWestland delivered its first four upgraded AH9As late last year, and says the entire fleet will have been modified by early 2012. The type is expected to remain in operational use until 2016, when it will be replaced by the company's new-generation Lynx Wildcat.

Details of the new contract were confirmed at AgustaWestland's Yeovil site in Somerset on 26 March, as the army took delivery of its seventh modified Lynx.

Source: Flight International