GEAR & TECH

The Lynx might be the most versatile helicopter ever

Some helicopters are loved because they carry a lot of firepower, like the AH-64 Apache. Others, like the CH-47 Chinook, are loved for their ability to haul troops and gear. Some helicopters, like the UH-1 Iroquois, are beloved icons from a past war. The AgustaWestland Lynx, however, is none of these things, but it has been a valuable asset for the Royal Navy and British Army for nearly three decades.


The typical Lynx has a crew of two, a top speed of 158mph, and a maximum range of 426mi, but it's this chopper's versatility that makes it stand out. Here's a look at the Lynx in its various roles.

Troop carrier

As a troop carrier, the Lynx holds eight infantrymen. This is a small payload compared to the UH-1 (which is capable of holding 13 troops), but eight troops is the size of a British section (their term for a squad-sized unit). In this role, the Lynx usually packs two guns, either 7.62mm general-purpose types or .50-caliber heavy machine guns.

A Lynx AH.7 in utility helicopter mode, where it can haul eight troops. (DOD photo)

Anti-tank gunship

In this role, a Lynx packs eight BGM-71 tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided missiles. The TOW, as you might recall, has been a mainstay for the United States and a number of its allies since the Vietnam War. The Lynx also can carry 70mm rockets in pods, giving it more options for ground targets.

The Lynx is also a potent tank-killer with the BGM-71 TOW missile. It also can carry 70mm rockets. (Royal Navy photo)

Maritime operations

The Lynx is used by a number of navies, from the Royal Navy and French Navy (the two original customers) to the South Korean and Royal Thai navies. The primary weapons of the Lynx are Stingray anti-submarine torpedoes and Sea Skua anti-ship missiles. The Lynx saw some use as an anti-sub chopper in the Falklands War, but in an actual engagement with an Argentinean sub, it used its Sea Skuas – not the weapon you'd expect.

The Lynx HMA.8 served with the Royal Navy until its retirement last year, being replaced by the AW159 Wildcat. (DOD photo)

The Westland Lynx family of helicopters, in its various roles, will be around for a long time – especially with the development of the AW159 Wildcat, a souped-up, anti-submarine variant of the Lynx.