LONDON - AgustaWestland has handed over the last of 22 Lynx helicopters to the British Army in a deal aimed at improving the machine's ability to operate in Afghanistan.
The Ministry of Defence has spent 92 million pounds ($142.4 million) upgrading the light helicopter with a new engine, surveillance sensors, secure communications, a .50-caliber heavy machine gun and other equipment changes under an urgent operational requirement procurement which started in late 2008.
The first new Lynx Mk9As were delivered to theater in May last year and about a quarter of the fleet now operates in support of British troops and others in Helmand province.
AgustaWestland said the upgrade program, undertaken at its Yeovil plant in southwest England, had been completed on budget and three months ahead of schedule.
Prior to the upgrade, earlier versions of the helicopter using the Rolls-Royce Gem engine had been unable to effectively operate in the hot and high conditions of an Afghan summer. The M3M machine and new sensor suite allows the Mk9A to perform a variety of roles, including convoy overwatch, helicopter support, and surveillance and reconnaissance tasks.
The Italian helicopter company pulled through technologies such as the powerful CTS800-4N engine, which is destined for the Lynx Wildcat program being developed for the Royal Navy and British Army, to deliver the first Mk9A within 18 months of the project starting.
The Wildcat is now undergoing flight trials ahead of being delivered for duty with the Navy in 2014 and the Army a year later.