GEAR & TECH

The Wildcat helicopter was made to hunt enemy subs

Anti-submarine warfare is something that the Royal Navy takes very seriously. Historically, there's good reason for it: German U-boats have twice tried to blockade Great Britain and each attempt brought about great peril.


Once upon a time, anti-submarine warfare involved ships deploying depth charges but, now, the most effective weapons come from the sky – dropped by helicopters. Choppers are versatile and can be deployed on a variety of sea-faring vessels, which, in essence, makes every destroyer, frigate, and cruiser currently serving into a capable anti-submarine system. Helicopters aboard these ships can fly a fair distance and carry a couple of anti-submarine torpedoes each.

A Wildcat HMA.2 of the Royal Navy and an MH-60 Seahawk on the deck of USS Wasp (LHD 1). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Zhiwei Tan/Released)

To fill this role today, the Royal Navy relies on the AgustaWestland AW159, officially designated the Wildcat HMA.2. This chopper is a highly evolved version of the Westland Lynx that has served on the Royal Navy's ships since 1971. But today's Wildcat has come a long way.

The Wildcat HMA.2 entered service in 2014. It has a top speed of 184 miles per hour, making it one of the fastest helicopters in the world. It has a range of 483 miles and is armed with a pair of either 7.62mm or .50-caliber machine guns.

A Royal Navy Wildcat helicopter from 825 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) in flight over the UK. This helicopter can go 184 miles per hour, making it one of the fastest in the world. (Royal Navy photo)

In terms of anti-submarine armament, the Wildcat uses a pair of Stingray torpedoes. These torpedoes have been around since 1983. They travel at 45 nautical miles per hour and have a roughly five-mile range. It's warhead packs nearly 100 pounds of high explosive, which is enough to punch a hole in most submarines.

The Wildcat, though, is not limited to carrying torpedoes. It can also carry anti-ship missiles, like the Sea Skua, which saw action in the Falklands and during Desert Storm, making it a formidable tool in nearly any naval scenario.

Learn more about this rotary-wing Wildcat that's hotter than Sandra Bullock's character in Speed in the video below.