After nearly two months of being operational in Afghanistan, the world's fastest helicopter, the Lynx Mark 9A, has proved to be a vital boost to the UK's battlefield capability.
The crews from the Army Air Corps that fly the aircraft say it has massively enhanced capability, as it is light and agile and perfect for the rapid deployment and extraction of small numbers of troops.
In comparison to their predecessors, the Lynx Mk9As have increased fire power, more powerful engines, and the ability to operate all year in the harsh ‘hot and high’ Afghan environment.
The helicopter, which is capable of lifting surprisingly heavy loads for its size, is currently flown in Afghanistan by 672 Squadron of the Army Air Corps.
Deputy Squadron Commander Captain Pete Marfleet said:
It’s fantastic to have the new Lynx Mk9A with its upgraded engines as it means we can be here throughout the summer, supporting the troops on the ground through the toughest time of the year.
The increased aircraft performance means we can concentrate on bringing the fight to the insurgents.
The aircraft’s value in the battle against insurgents lies in its versatile performance. The Lynx crews can track insurgent movements and watch over vulnerable areas with its sophisticated surveillance camera.
This ‘overwatch’ capability helps in the protection of the massive convoys used to resupply front line troops in the forward operating bases.
The convoys can be vulnerable to attack as they track across vast swathes of desert from base to base but with the Lynx and its formidable weapons systems circling above, the insurgents stay away.
Capt Marfleet said:
I’d be concerned if we had lots of contacts every time we flew a mission. Success for us means we’ve got a convoy or a support helicopter in and out of a patrol base without any trouble.
Just our presence in the overhead and the threat from our weapons systems means that the enemy wisely keep their heads down.
In combat operations the aircraft provides both an offensive and a ‘Command and Control’ capability by operating overhead and directing the battle or providing the force commander with a ‘birds eye’ view of what’s happening on the ground.
This version of the Lynx helicopter has been specifically engineered to meet the challenges of operating in places like Afghanistan. Previous versions struggled with temperatures higher than the mid-thirties Centigrade.
The searing heat of the Afghan summers regularly sees temperatures soar over 45C which meant that other aircraft could only fly at night and even then their lift capacity was limited.
672 Squadron’s Qualified Helicopter Instructor Danny Rae, a veteran Warrant Officer with 30 years experience, said:
This is a massively capable aircraft. The environment in Afghanistan is challenging to say the least but it copes extremely well.
The manufacturers have done a fantastic job. Its capability means that we can take the fight to the enemy if required.
The upgraded Lynx joined the other aircraft in Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan) (JHF(A)), commanded from Camp Bastion, in May 2010.
The Joint Helicopter Force comprises helicopters from all three Services operating to support the multinational coalition effort, including Chinooks, Merlins, Apaches and Sea Kings.