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Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin confirmed that AW159 Wildcat work will continue in the UK.

Options had been considered to relocate the fabrication work for future AW159 helicopters orders – the export version of the Wildcat helicopters already in service with the British Army and Royal Navy – overseas.

A press release states:

“After careful joint analysis with the Ministry of Defence, Leonardo Helicopters in Yeovil has confirmed that it will carry out all future fabrication for the AW159 helicopter in the UK, with much of this work being undertaken at its Somerset facility – an agreement that will sustain 40 highly skilled jobs across the UK-based supply chain.

Wildcat is a highly versatile aircraft, capable of a wide a range of tasks over land and sea. The Royal Navy’s maritime Wildcat forms the core of the UK’s Frigate and Destroyer aviation capability and performs tasks including Anti-Surface and Submarine Warfare, force protection, transport and the vital information, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) role. Similarly, the Army variant performs reconnaissance, command and control, force protection, and transport roles in a wide variety of environments.”

Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin said:

“I am delighted that a solution for UK-based fabrication for the AW159 helicopter has been identified between the MOD and Leonardo Helicopters. An agreement that secures Yeovil as the home of AW159 and Wildcat production and maintenance in the UK.

This work has not only helped sustain 40 highly skilled jobs within the UK, but will act as a positive boost for the company and, through improved cost-effectiveness, their export customers. I would also like to pay tribute to Marcus Fysh MP, who has worked tirelessly to secure this great result.”

Over a decade ago the MoD bought, as part of the 2006 Wildcat demonstration and manufacturing contract, a number of specialised jigs and tooling for the fabrication of the AW159 Wildcat Helicopters. It is understood that These essential parts are used to ensure airframe alignment, mould, patterns and manufacturing tools and gauges. These will now be used by Leonardo to carry out the fabrication work in the UK.

19 COMMENTS

    • I’m sure there’s been some agreement signed to keep the facility in the UK, hopefully a follow up order after the new Defence Review. However, the cynic in me wouldn’t put it past the MOD to place a new order and then sell off the first batch airframes at some ridiculously low price.

  1. Doesn’t the Lynx cost the same as the Merlin? I don’t see any scenario where you would pick a lynx over the Merlin if they are at the same price point.
    Same with the NH90, the Merlin is a much more capable helicopter and European money could have been focused on developing other capabilities (UAV) rather than competing with each other in the same overly competitive market place.

    • From what i understood the Merlin was not as well armoured as the wildcat and so is less useful when it comes to carrying troops into a combat zone, but this might have been fully fixed now, i am not sure.

      • Wildcat/Lynx carry troops into a war zone.

        Probably get two fully equipped soldiers and an air gunner in will squeeze into a wildcat cabin.

        Army needs the helicopter equivalent of a pick up truck not a dinky little sports car in the battlefield utility role.

  2. I think I would prefer to be in a Wildcat than a Merlin while trying to engage an enemy surface vessel, their strengths may overlap a bit but are pretty different at either end of their capabilities.

  3. Lack of export orders for wildcat is a concern.

    The army variant is a total waste of money – too small too limited and too expensive- for the recce role an Apache is a better option for the utility role Blackhawk is a clear winner.

    Let’s face it the army getting wildcat was a political decision to try and sustain UK helicopter production. Let’s hope our soldiers don’t have to pay the price for poor decision making.

    • Re good design the helicopter you want to crash in is the Wild cat, it’s the very best out there in its size. You can’t compare it to a Blackhawk (which is a medium lift) as its a different class of helicopter, if the MOD had wanted a UK built helicopter that compares to a black hawk they could have asked for the 149 to be built in the UK. The Blackhawk and 149 are comparable to the puma and we will see if the UK government is willing to support UK defence industry when that replacement comes up.

    • Bang on Mike.
      I’d read we were offered Blackhawks for $ 400million. Far more capable and providing lift.
      Jobs for the boys and UK industry prioritised over the forces again.

  4. This work was going,with the UK government not doing anything to prevent it, until it was pointed out (by locals) that the Jigs to build the things were actually a national asset and why were the MOD not pointing this out.

  5. We should buy more apaches at £10m each (price of last contract) and more Merlins and the Wildcat should be an RN asset only.

    When the time comes it should be retired with gratitude and replaced by whatever is needed at that time (20yrs+)

    Sorry – but we cannot afford £40m helicopters when we can buy 2 excellent ones for the price of 1 of these.

    • Agreed, the Wildcat is going to struggle in the export market against the NH90 and other cheaper alternatives from Leonardo that it will priorities in sales when they are made in Italy. The UK cannot sustain a helicopter industry on its own its a pity more European countries did not buy into the Merlin as an alternative to the NH90.

  6. I cannot beleive some of the tripe that is outlined above.Firstly the role of Wildcat is totally different to Merlin or Apache , and one poster suggests Blackhawk , I suggest that the posters read the specs . I note that one says that two passengers would be jammed into the body , well its five which again is enough for its job role. As far as the Navy is concerned its likely that the new smaller frigate would only accomodate Wildcat in the anti sub role, and for the Army Wildcat is not an assault helicopter. again read its job spec. Wildcat is an advance on Lynx which is used by Army and Navy has been exported to any number of Countrys whether that will happen again,probably not but it is and extremely capable unit

    • When the wildcat was originally ordered it was billed as a battlefield light utility helicopter for the army, however it is simply not capable of fulfilling that role in the modern battlefield.

      The modern soldier carries considerably more equipment and body armour than previous generations. The lynx was always a tight fit for lightly armed troops. Then add in an air gunner its completely incapable of undertaking the utility role.

      So the role was changed to the recce role, the ah64 is far more capable.

      The wildcat is not what the army needs.

  7. From Flight International October 2007

    “The army’s late shift from a battlefield light utility helicopter requirement to the reconnaissance role will see its 40 aircraft configured to operate with a crew of two, plus a door gunner for 7.62mm or 12.7mm machine guns and a two-strong reconnaissance unit. ”

    No room for five fully equipped troops just two in a wildcat.

    https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/pictures-uks-future-lynx-programme-moves-into-manu-218000/

  8. European helicopter procurement has for the last 30 years been dominated by the pointless and hugely wasteful duplication of effort and scarce finances.

    As an example of this, many years ago when a European attack helicopter was first mooted, the UK and others suggested the Augusta A129 as the starting point for a new attack helicopter, very sensible…. So obviously that idea was canned, and they set about building a very, very expensive and sub-standard (in comparison with) Apache competitor from scratch…

    We (the UK) had the good sense to pull out, but then spent a fortune modifying the Apache to a UK spec … Upshot, a very capable helicopter yes, but costing double the unit cost of an example taken from US Army multi year procurement!

    The Wildcat is without doubt a superb helicopter, but is it one that should have been procured with a tight defence budget, or should we have bought off the shelf for the Army. That’s an open ended question…

    You do I’m afraid get the strong impression that it’s a helicopter looking for a wider role in the Army, while the RN version will be excellent and a good fit for the Navy, when it’s fully developed with the equipment that’s been promised, but yet to be funded.

    Much has been made of the Maritime suitably of the Army Utility version, but it’s unclear what role it would serve with its equipment fit?

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