Italian company Leonardo Helicopters subcontracts out the assembly of the Lynx Wildcat helicopters for the Royal Navy to GKN which carries out the work at their facility in Yeovil, Somerset adjacent to RNAS Yeovilton. However, staff at the site have been told that as many as 230 jobs could be lost due to Leonardo deciding to relocate assembly to Italy.
A Leonardo spokesman was quoted in Manufacturing and Engineering Magazine (MEM) as saying that the primary reason for them relocating the work to Italy was due to “changes in their demand” making the current arrangement “no longer sustainable”. However, MEM have quoted sources claiming that Leonardo’s decision is politically motivated as opposed to reflecting a change in demand.
The Lynx Wildcat is the latest development of the earlier Westland Lynx and will become one of the most significant rotary-wing types in service with the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm over the coming decade. The engines are considerably more powerful than the previous generation Lynx HMA.8’s Gem 42-200 powerplants providing significantly improved performance when operating in hot and high conditions. The aircraft’s flight and weapon systems are also significantly improved.
Union representatives are demanding greater government action to protect GKN employees and other defence industry jobs from going overseas particularly in the wake of the Brexit vote which some claim has left the UK in a state of industrial limbo which has dissuaded investment.
Seven upgraded AW101 Merlin HC.4/4A tactical utility helicopters have been delivered to the Royal Navy by AgustaWestland. The aircraft, all ex-RAF machines, were upgraded to the new standard at AugustaWestland’s Yeovil facility in Somerset. The upgrade concerned primarily with modifying the aircraft to be able to operate more effectively at sea as the type begins phasing out the venerable but increasingly ageing Westland Commando (troop transport version of the Sea King).
A folding main rotor head for easier stowage aboard the Royal Navy’s ships and carriers.
Naval lashing rings to tether the aircraft to the deck.
A revised twin-wheel main undercarriage more suited to ship operations.
Fast-roping capability for rapid insertion of Royal Marines.
AgustaWestland announced that another six aircraft will be delivered to this standard in the new year. A total of 25 aircraft are to undergo the conversion by 2020 at a cost of £330 million.
A Falklands War veteran this aircraft served aboard HMS Invincible with No.801 NAS during the conflict. It continued in service after the war with several squadrons until on the 15th December 1994 it crashed in the Adriatic ocean following the loss of yaw control during the hover phase. The aircraft was recovered but never flew again. Instead it was stripped of any useful parts before being put in storage. Then in 1995 it was decided to start work on restoring it to display condition and now resides in Hall 4 of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton in Somerset.