A special trials version of Wildcat – replacement for the trusty Lynx which has been in service since the 1970s – has joined aviation training/casualty treatment ship RFA Argus to gather crucial data to allow the helicopter fly from large Royal Navy warships.
Wildcat will spend the bulk of its time operating from Royal Navy frigates and destroyers – just like its predecessor.
But it will also be expected to fly on and off the flight deck of larger vessels: helicopter and aircraft carriers such as HMS Ocean and Queen Elizabeth, assault ships such as HMS Bulwark, and Argus herself.
The characteristics of these bigger ships – such as the wind speed across the deck and the vessel’s motion – are entirely different, so trailblazers must set the limits at which ship and helicopter can safely operate.
Which is exactly what Argus and her trials version of Wildcat – equipped with extensive additional sensors and instrumentation – is doing for the next month in the Western Approaches and Irish Sea.
A 39-strong test team – a mix of military and civilian personnel from the helicopter’s manufacturer AgustaWestland, the Rotary Wing Test and Evaluation Squadron Boscombe Down, 700W Naval Air Squadron from RNAS Yeovilton (which is helping to introduce Wildcat to front-line service) and the Lynx Project Team – have joined Argus for the trials.
Thanks to its role as an aviation training ship over the past 30 years, Argus is well used to such trials – and the information gathered can be extrapolated to other large ships and even other aircraft types.
“The trial is a huge team effort – test pilots from AgustaWestland and from Boscombe Down are sharing the flying and assessing the degree of difficulty for each deck landing and take-off,” explains Lt Cdr Rob Dowdell, the lead test pilot the from Rotary Wing Test and Evaluation Squadron.
“Maintainers from 700W squadron are spreading and folding the Wildcat and acting as refuelling and lashing numbers, Argus’ aircraft handlers and the ship bridge and Flying Control team are providing the required deck conditions under the direction of civilian experts from QinetiQ at Boscombe Down.”
After flying, engineers from AgustaWestland are servicing the Wildcat, checking the instrumentation and preparing it for the next day’s sorties, while the firm’s stress experts are ensuring no design limitations are being encroached by analysing the masses of data collected by the trials equipment fitted to the helicopter.
Scientists from QinetiQ have also provided instruments to record the ship’s motion and wind conditions, with the data analysed by the team to ensure the tests are safe.
At the same time the ship’s company were gathering their own data, information and tips on aircraft movements and ground power supplies.
“The embarkation of the Wildcat has given the ship’s company a chance to experience the future of Naval aviation at first hand – and also to test the ships’ aviation facilities to ensure they are ‘future-proof’,” said Lt Cdr Mo Morris, the Argus’ Senior Naval Officer.
Lt Cdr Dowdell added: “The ship’s crew have provided all the essential support to allow Argus to be deployed from anywhere from north of Scotland to the Canary Isles to ensure the correct meteorological conditions are achieved.
“Finding the right weather for testing is crucial with the perfect mix of wind speed, temperature, air pressure and sea state being critical to gathering the right quality data that will allow future global Wildcat deployments.”
The trials are due to finish on November 7, after which a comprehensive report will be compiled documenting all the new limitations and lessons learned.
- AW159 Wildcat helps HMS Dragon to record eighth drugs haul – value £145m in six months
- Republic of Korea Navy launches tender for 12 helicopters
- Leonardo demonstrates its AW159 to Malaysian Armed Forces
- South Korea to Purchase 12 ASW Helicopters
- Leonardo awarded £271 million AW159 WIST contract by UK
- Possible Closure for GKN Yeovil
- General Dynamics integrates Link 16 datalink system on AW159
- British military thanks landing site owners
- Black Cats team ready for 30 air shows
- UK – 815 Naval Air Squadron receives first four of 12 Wildcats
- Philippine Navy orders two AgustaWestland AW159s
- Army Air Corps praise new Wildcat facilities at RNAS Yeovilton
- Korean AW159 deliveries delayed by acceptance test issue
- Recently retired military chief summonsed over AW159 corruption allegations
- Wildcat becomes first helicopter to land at St Helena Airport
- Batch of AgustaWestland related domain names for sale
- Babcock win large Royal Navy helicopter maintenance contract
- Navy Wildcat exercises with South African Navy
- Korean politician accused of taking bribes over AW159 order
- UK military extends AW101 suppert contact with AgustaWestland by five years