Australia

Army brings Lynx helicopter of a farewell tour

By Darren Boyle for MailOnline

Published: 08:28 EST, 16 January 2018 | Updated: 03:27 EST, 17 January 2018

Four of the Army Air Corps Lynx helicopters departed RAF Odiham, Hampshire on their final tour of the UK ahead of their decommissioning at the end of the month after 40 years

  • The Westland Lynx entered service with the Army Air Corps in 1978
  • The final Lynx squadron will decommission its aircraft at the end of the month
  • The Royal Navy also used the Lynx but retired it from service in March 2016
  • Both the Army Air Corps and Royal Navy will use the Augusta Westland Wildcat

The Lynx has been in service since 1978 and has performed a variety of roles operating for both the Navy and the Army

© MoD/Crown copyright 2018

The Lynx was used to kill tanks, perform humanitarian assistence and carry troops into battle during its 40-year service life

These two Lynx aircaft are passing by Tower Bridge with HMS Belfast in the background

It has been the backbone of the British military for the last 40 years, fought in every war since the Falklands and been piloted by a prince.

But after a disguised service career across the world with the Army and Royal Navy, the Lynx helicopter is finally being retired.

Yesterday, the Army Air Corps flew four of the last remaining Lynx helicopters from RAF Odiham in Hampshire on a commemorative tour in a final salute to the aircraft.

The aircraft witnessed the sunset as they returned to their base in Hampshire

© Sgt Steve Blake RLC/MOD

This Lynx Mk9a was on patrol above Helmand Province in Afghanistan in January 2012

Major James Peycke, pictured, is the Officer Commanding of the 657 Squadron which is the last unit to use the medium-sized helicopter which he described as 'an iconic machine'

The aircraft have all undergone several refits during their career to extend their service life but now they are being replaced by the Augusta Westland Wildcat which is able to operate at higher altitudes and in more extreme environments

During the Falklands War, the Lynx was equipped with the anti-ship Sea Skua missile. Two Lynx helicopters from HMS Coventry and HMS Glasgow attacked and badly damaged an 800-tonne patrol boat which managed to limp back to port.

The Lynx also destroyed an Argentine cargo ship and a patrol boat. They were also used during the conflict in anti-submarine patrols.

Prince Andrew, who was a Royal Navy pilot, flew the Westland Lynx from the Type 22 Frigate HMS Brazen from May 1984 until March 1986.

During the First Gulf War, the Royal Navy Lynx aircraft also used the Sea Skua missile, attacking several fast attack craft and minesweepers. They were also responsible for damaging a landing ship.

At the same time, the Army Air Corps used their Lynx helicopters in the Gulf as tank killers, equipped with TOW missiles.

However, in Afghanistan, the Lynx had problems operating at high altitudes in mountainous regions where the air is thinner.

Instead of being used as a gunship, it was used for reconnaissance and surveillance. Its strike role was taken over by the purpose-built Apache.

The Lynx spent much of the 1990s serving in Bosnia as part of the international peace keeping effort, where it was also used for surveillance.

In September 2010 two Army Air Corps Lynx helicopters were sent to Sierra Leone as part of a mission to rescue a platoon from the Royal Irish Regiment who had been captured by the West Side Boys in an operation involving the SAS and the Parachute Regiment. The two aircraft were used to strafe a village held by the gang while ground troops rescued the five soldiers who were being held prisoner.

The Ministry of Defence is replacing the Lynx with Apache gunships and the Augusta Westland Wildcat. The Wildcat has been deployed with the Royal Navy on board frigates, where it is used for anti-ship and anti-submarine operations. The Wildcat can also be used to provide air support if the navy has to board another vessel, such as intercepting suspected drug traffickers.

The Army Air Corps Wildcat will be used for surveillance and battlefield intelligence gathering, although it is equipped with a .50cal door mounted heavy machine gun.

It has also the ability to deploy fully equipped troops to the battlefield and can be fitted with air-to-surface missiles and rockets.

Commanding Officer of 657 Squadron, Major James Peycke said that bidding 'farewell to the iconic machine' is a huge moment for everyone who has flown the Lynx over the years.

'It is hugely emotional saying goodbye to the Lynx after six years of flying, and it carves out a big chunk of your heart,' he said.

Describing the aircraft as 'hugely manoeuvrable', Maj Peycke said there is 'never a dull day when you are flying' one.

The four Mk9 Lynx lifted off to thunder around the UK's skies, taking in sites and locations including Yeovil, Middle Wallop and Upavon, before also flying in formation, led by a Chinook helicopter, along the length of the River Thames in central London.

© Tom Wren SWNS.com

Service personnel stood on the best vantage point to photograph the four helicopters leaving RAF Odiham earlier today

© Tom Wren SWNS.com

The Lynx, pictured, was in service with the Army Air Corps and the Royal Navy for the past four decades

© Tom Wren SWNS.com

The Lynx has been used to destroy tanks, evacuate wounded soldiers and even gather intelligence during its 40-year lifespan

Speaking before they departed, Maj Peycke, who was flying in the lead Lynx, said they would have liked to include more locations on the tour but were restricted by winter daylight hours.

When pressed on how he will feel as the wheels touch down for one of the final times at RAF Odiham, he said it would be an 'incredibly emotional moment'.

'Not only does it mark the out-of-service date for the Lynx, the 75th anniversary of the squadron (657) which was formed in 1943, but also the closure of the squadron (in May) and the end of my tour as an officer commanding, so it will be an incredibly emotional moment, particularly as we come back in – I'm probably going to have a lump in my throat,' he added.

Described as a primary battlefield utility helicopter, over the decades the Lynx has also destroyed tanks, evacuated the wounded, gathered intelligence, and provided humanitarian support.

It has been deployed on operations across the world, including the jungles of South East Asia and Central America, the sub-zero Arctic, the Middle East, and has supported troops on active service in Bosnia, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone.

The Royal Navy used the Lynx onboard her warships for 41 years until last March

Staff Sergeant Nathan Sharples, one of the pilots flying the lead Lynx, when asked if the helicopter being decommissioned is a loss, said it is not, that things need to progress, and it is now 'time for the old girl to retire'.

'She has served us proud throughout the years,' added the 34-year-old, who has only ever flown the Lynx.

Air Trooper Toby Tibbitts, a ground crew specialist, who has been in the military for two-and-a-half years, said this is his first and only squadron so far, and seeing the Lynx go is a 'sad day' but a proud one.

Quizzed about his favourite moment involving the helicopter, he said fast roping out of a Lynx over a desert was a 'pretty special experience' and one he will not forget.

The Lynx Aircraft took one final flight over the capital before they are officially decommissioned at the end of the month

© Tom Wren SWNS.com

The Lynx operated with a crew of three and could carry up to six troops and their kit

He said the replacement Wildcat 'seems like a good aircraft', and that, with the positive trials and exercises, plus upgraded avionics and engines, the 'future is looking bright'.

The Lynx was also used by the Royal Navy, whose helicopters went out of service in March last year after more than 41 years of operations.

As a workhorse of the military over the years, the Lynx, which carries three crew plus six troops with full kit, has also been involved in a number of tragedies during its years of service.

Prince Andrew, pictured here with a naval version of the Westland Lynx served during the Falklands War in 1982 although he did not start using the Lynx until July 1983 when he converted to the aircraft type. In May 1984, he joined HMS Brazen and operated as their Flight Pilot for almost two years

During the past 40 years the Lynx has served across the globe, including here in Oman on a training mission in 2001

© REUTERS

A pair of Lynx helicopters were on patrol over Basra, southern Iraq on April 8, 2003 armed with missiles

The Lynx helicopter was used during the golf war to take out Iraqi tanks and even sunk a few patrol boats

The Lynx has also been used for humanitarian work with its crew deployed to help the crew of ships which were sinking, here on January 22, 2006, rescuing those aboard the Lady Sasha which was in trouble off the coast of Dominicia in hte Caribbean

A Lynx from the type 23 Frigate HMS Argyll provided top cover on October 23, 2014 as a boarding party inspected this yacht which was carrying ten bales of cocaine worth an estimated £10 million after receiving a tip-off from the US Coast Guard

This Lynx, on patrol in Al Qurnah, Iraq in April 2003 is armed with TOW missiles which are used to take out armoured vehicles such as tanks

This Lynx which was attached to 815 Squadron Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton fired its flare counter measure system as part of an exercise involign HMS Richmond in the background

© REUTERS

This Lynx took off at dusk in Basra, southern Iraq in March 2003 as during the second Gulf war to depose Saddam Hussein

British Army Lynx aircraft waits to take off from RAF ODIHAM, Hampshire, southern England. 16 January

© REUTERS

Before the invasion of Iraq, Lynx helicopters were deployed to a forward arming and refuelling point in northern Kuwait so they could be over Iraqi airspace in a short period of time to attack tanks

This Lynx helicopter was approaching Royal Navy vessel near South Georgia during the 1982 Falklands conflict

© CAMERA PRESS/ED/RM/MoD

The Lynx is being replaced by the Augusta Westland Wildcat with the MOD planning to buy 34 for the Army and 28 for the Navy

The Wildcat, pictured here in Royal Navy specification, is able to operate in harsh conditions and higher altitudes

TALE OF THE TAPE – WILDCAT V THE LYNX

WESTLAND LYNX

Crew: 2 or 3

Capacity: 8 troops

Length: 15.241 m

Empty weight: 3,291 kg

Max. takeoff weight: 5,330 kg

Powerplant: 2 × Rolls-Royce Gem turboshaft, 835 kW (1,120 shp) each

Maximum speed: 201 mph

Range: 328 miles with standard tanks

7.62mm GPMG and .50 calibre heavy machine gun

Naval: 2 x torpedoes or 4x Sea Skua missiles or 2 x depth charges

Attack: 2 x 20mm cannons

2 x 70mm rocket pods CRV7,

8 x TOW ATGM

AUGUSTA WESTLAND WILDCAT

Crew: 2 pilots

Capacity: 5 passengers, including door gunner

Length: 15.24m

Empty weight: 3,300 kg

Max takeoff weight: 6,000 kg

Powerplant: 2 × LHTEC CTS800-4N turboshaft, 1,015 kW (1,361 hp) each

Maximum speed: 193 mph

Range: 483 mi

.50 calibre heavy machine gun

20 Thales Martlet (Lightweight Multirole Missile), formerly Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Light).

4× MBDA Sea Venom, formerly Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (Heavy), to disable or destroy vessels up to 1000 tonnes.

Sting Ray torpedo and depth charges

© PA Archive/PA Images

This 653 Squadron Lynx helicopter was coming into land in Kuwait on March 15, 2003, less than a week before the conflict

This Mark 7 Lynx is on a combat air patrol in Al Qurnah, Iraq, flying over a destroyed Iraqi T55 tank on April 9, 2003. Th helicopter is equipped with TOW missiles which are capable of engaging and destroying a tank

© REX/Shutterstock

These Mk 9 Lynx helicopters are supporting British forces in Banja Luka, Bosnia in March 2007 shortly before they were due to return to the UK following the end of their peace keeping mission

© David Crump/ANL/REX/Shutterstock

This Royal Navy Lynx is deployed on HMS Jupiter during the first Gulf war in January 1991 somewhere in the gulf

The four Lynx helicopters flew along the River Thames earlier today as part of their farewell visit to the capital

The final Lynx aircraft are being decommissioned after 40 years of frontline service

The aircraft performed the ceremonial flight across the south east of England before returing to RAF Odiham in Hampshire

The four Lynx aircraft followed a RAF Chinook helicopter during this afternoon's tour of the south east of England

This image, taken from the back of the RAF Chinook, shows the four Army Air Corps Lynx aircraft on their last official flight

© MoD/Crown copyright 2018

The Lynx has been the British Army's primary battlefield helicopter for the past 40 years and served across the globe

© Getty Images

Some of the Army Air Corps' last remaining Lynx Mk9 helicopters from 657 Squadron fly over central London on January 16

Four British Army Lynx aircraft take off from RAF Odiham

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