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UK Wildcat helicopter weapons training and digitisation reaches next stage

8th November 2022 - 18:00 GMT | by Norbert Neumann in London


The new Weapons Loading System Trainer will train operators on the full range of weapons used on the AW159 Wildcat helicopter. (Photo: Leonardo)

The Wildcat Integrated Support and Training programme has reached its next stage with implementation of a Weapons Loading System trainer at the Royal Navy's Yeovilton base. The MoD is also experimenting with digitisation of the AW159 Wildcat helicopter.

Leonardo has introduced a Weapons Loading System Trainer (WLST) at the Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) in Yeovilton, UK, the company announced on 7 November.

The WLST, manufactured by Pennant International, is said to be a key capability for the UK MoD’s Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapons (FASGW) programme.

The FASGW contract was initially signed in 2014. Under the programme, Leonardo will integrate, test and install the MBDA Sea Venom and Thales Martlet LMM missile systems onto RN AW159 Wildcat HMA helicopters.

The RN completed a one-month-long campaign that concluded at the end of October. During the trials, AW159 helicopters operated with seven different weapon loads configurations and test-fired the Martlet LMM missile for the first time in frontline condition.

The new WLST will train operators on the full range of weapons loading found on the AW159.

Simon Jones, VP of customer support and training at Leonardo Helicopters UK, said in a 7 November statement: ‘It [the WLST] significantly reduces the dependency on live aircraft for training and it enables greater levels of integration within a training facility.’

The delivery of the WLST is set to enhance the weapons loading training for the British Armed Forces and is part of the Wildcat Integrated Support and Training (WIST) contract.

The implementation of a tactical data link will enhance the Wildcat helicopters potency in its role as a reconnaissance platform. (Photo: UK MoD/Crown Copyright) 

The 34-year WIST contract was initially signed in 2012 by Leonardo. The latest stage, a five-year, £360 million ($457.6 million) tranche delivers support service for the UK fleet of AW159 Wildcats.

It covers the period from 1 April 2022 until 31 March 2028 and includes 62 AW159 Wildcat airframes.

In other Wildcat news, the British Amy and RN have tested a new solution allowing the AW159 to share crucial information on the battlefield.

Under efforts to modernise and digitalise its platforms, the UK began trialling a tactical data link (TDL). It is a joint project by the army and navy that consists of two separate but mutually reinforcing elements – Link 16 and Bowman Data.

The British Army said the implementation of the TDL will enhance the Wildcat helicopter's potency as a reconnaissance platform.

‘What this project is seeking to do is link a battlefield reconnaissance helicopter into the Bowman Data Network, which means we’ll be able to share digital information about the positions of the enemy,’ Col Oliver Stead, 1st Aviation Brigade Combat Team, noted in a 3 November press statement.

‘The goal is to tie it into the artillery fire control system so they can then prosecute the target or to send it to other users who would do that,’ he added.

Norbert Neumann


Norbert Neumann

Norbert is the Aviation, Military Training & Simulation reporter at Shephard Media. Before joining Shephard in …

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