Wildcat Mk1 will provide, across the spectrum of military activity but primarily as a FIND asset, intimate Battlefield Helicopter support to Land Manoeuvre (consisting of both Ground and Air Manoeuvre) and Littoral Manoeuvre. Primarily it will support Multi Role Brigades, Battle Groups and Formation Reconnaissance by exploiting a range of capabilities, which incorporate reconnaissance, direction of Joint Fires, Command Support and light utility roles.
The 14th June 2012 marked a special day for the Wildcat Fielding Team(Army) when HRH The Duke of York and Brig Illingworth, Dep Cdr JHC/DAAvn visited the team to celebrate the first Front Line Command crewed Wildcat Mk1 flight. Both were extremely impressed at the technological leap the aircraft represents. The Wildcat Release to Service was issued on 24th May and the first Wildcat, ZZ406 was delivered by AgustaWestland to Yeovilton on the 28th May. Since then the engineers have been carrying out consolidation training and preparation for the commencement of flying. It was an extremely busy period leading up to the inaugural FLC flight. Almost every member of the team has been training. WO2 SSM Linegar completed the RQMS course, Capt Fowler and Sgt Banner both passed the Defence Helicopter Handling Instructor course. The signallers have completed the Internal Mission Planning System (IMPS) course. All of the maintainers have completed Factory Delivered Training with AgustaWestland. The Aviation Crewmen have attended and passed M3M training, IMPS, Groundcrew FDT, Dangerous Air Cargo and laser safety officer courses. The Groundcrew element have completed ground handling training. The pilots, four of whom are now fully qualified Wildcat Mk1 pilots have completed FDT1 and Ground school and OE/TacDev is commencing. On top of all this, numerous MAA, Air Safety and Duty Holder courses have been completed.
This first flight was only the first milestone; just a few weeks later on 11th July 2012 at Farnborough International Airshow AgustaWestland officially handed over the first of 62 Wildcats to the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond. The MoD has agreed to buy 34 Army variants and a further 28 maritime versions for the Royal Navy. The Army Wildcat will primarily be used in a reconnaissance role, providing protection to soldiers on the ground. The maritime attack version will protect the Navy’s fleet around the world. Both variants have more powerful engines than the Lynx, enabling Wildcat to be used on operations all-year-round in extreme conditions. The Wildcat also has a more robust fuselage to give better protection to the crews. Both variants are armed with machine guns and the Navy’s helicopters will also carry Sting Ray torpedoes. Pilots will use high-tech interactive displays thanks to state-of-the-art glass cockpits.
Brig Illingworth, Dep Cdr JHC said “I used to fly the Lynx so to see something so hi-tech replace the airframe is exciting. It’s got the sort of kit that the new boys on the block love and is able to fly in conditions you couldn’t in a Lynx.” As well as handing over the helicopters the Defence Secretary confirmed a Wildcat support and training contract with AgustaWestland. The £250m contract will provide a specialist training centre at RNAS Yeovilton, where the Wildcats will be based, that will include flight simulators and a wide range of other equipment to train pilots, ground crew and engineers.