British Navy AW159 Wildcat Helicopter Successfully Carries 20 Martlet and Sea Venom Combination Missiles

British Navy AW159 Wildcat Helicopter Successfully Carries 20 Martlet and Sea Venom Combination Missiles

The Royal Navy's Leonardo AW159 Wildcat has set a new record for performance, where the anti-submarine and multipurpose helicopter, which is also used by the Philippine Navy, for the first time can fly with 20 missiles at once in its two stub wings. The 20 missiles are divided into two types, namely the Martlet missile and the Sea Venom.

From a press release from the British Ministry of Defense (12/10/2022), it was stated that the installation of 20 missiles 'exceeded expectations' in the Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon (FASGW) program. “This is an incredible number of missiles. 

This is the first time the Wildcat has proven itself in a future support role and highlights the Navy's contribution to allied and NATO forces," said a source in the Royal Navy.

The Martlet is a light missile made by Thales Air Defense with a weight of 13 kg, this missile is intended for smaller or less protected targets. The MBDA Sea Venom, twice the size, has more than double the range of the Martlet and is designed to target medium and heavy tonnage warships.

The AW159 Wildcat HMA Mk 2 which is used to carry 20 missiles has previously undergone special modifications by the 815 Naval Air Squadron.

 Ship Helicopter Operating Limitations (SHOL) trials were conducted on the RFA Argus training ship for a month in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, practicing takeoffs and landings more than 900 times under different conditions and payloads.

The data from the SHOL test will be analyzed further, with the Royal Navy operating the Wildcat armed with Martlet and Sea Venom missiles on the frigates, destroyers, auxiliaries and the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. In addition to being used in maritime anti-surface warfare, the Wildcat is also used to conduct search and rescue (SAR) and utility operations on the battlefield.

A total of seven weapon configurations were successfully tested including missiles under both “weapons wings”, and one at a time, to see how the Wildcat could be handled by the ground crew. Loading one side of the helicopter (asymmetrically) leaves the other side free to allow operation of a heavy caliber machine gun or winch to move personnel or rescue personnel, allowing operational flexibility.

Louis Wilson Chalon, maritime marketing manager for Leonardo Helicopters UK, said that the aerodynamically designed stub wing can carry 360 kg of weaponry on each wing. Even Leonardo said the helicopter's endurance could increase thanks to the adoption of this wing. The wing components are made of aluminum and carbon composite materials.

Sea Venom Combination Missiles

From the scenario released by Leonardo, the stub wing on the Wildcat can carry 20 air-to-surface missiles at the Thales Martlet. Another combination is that the two wings can carry four MBDA Sea Venom anti-ship missiles, or a mix of two Sea Venoms and 10 Martlets.

The AW159 Wildcat is a development variant of the Super Lynx, this helicopter design is adapted to operate from frigates and corvettes. The advantages of the Wildcat include the provision of a high-power AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar that has a full 360-degree detection coverage.

Powered by 2 × LHTEC CTS800-4N turboshaft engines with a power of 1,015 kW (1,361 hp) per engine, the AW159 Wildcat can reach a maximum speed of 311 km per hour and a cruising range of up to 777 km. 

Meanwhile, for the ferry range with additional fuel, the range can be increased to 963 km. The standard endurance of this “Wild Cat” is 2 hours 15 minutes, but with extra fuel it can be up to 4.5 hours.

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