The UK Royal Navy's new Agusta Westland AW159 Wildcat maritime attack helicopter has made its debut landing aboard the Invincible-class aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious during an anti-submarine exercise, Exercise Deep Blue, off Cornwall in the Atlantic.
HMS Illustrious Air Commander Mike Ryan said: "As someone who was closely involved with bringing Wildcat into service, it was both a great pleasure and privilege to welcome this highly impressive new helicopter on to Illustrious for the very first time."
Set to replace the aging Westland Super Lynx on the front line from 2015, the latest AW159 Wildcat helicopter maritime attack (HMA) Mk2 Lynx helicopter is based with 700W Naval Air Squadron and can also be deployed from smaller vessels.
Built as part of a contract signed by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) with AgustaWestland in 2006, the navy aviation unit will take delivery of 28 Wildcats to assist in various maritime attack missions, while 34 aircraft will be delivered to the British Army.
Scheduled to be commissioned next year, the naval version of Wildcat would continue training and trials at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset until the end of July, with the army version scheduled to enter service this year.
Recently, Thales was awarded a contract to design and build future anti-surface guided weapon (light) (FASGW(L)) missiles for integration into the Wildcat helicopters, which would offer a versatile, rapidly deployable and highly effective capability to rise above the threat from small ships and inshore attack craft.
In addition to Wildcat, the three-week war game was joined by nine Merlin Mk2 helicopters.
Image: The UK Royal Navy's AW159 Wildcat maritime attack helicopter. Photo: courtesy of UK Royal Navy.