Warning - the above report contains flash photography.

A £271 million contract with Leonardo Helicopters will 'preserve hundreds of UK jobs and update the military’s helicopter fleet', according to the MoD.

Leonardo maintains the Wildcat, which is based at the Royal Naval Air Station in Yeovilton, Somerset.

The new Wildcat Integrated Support and Training (WIST) contract will also support jobs in Edinburgh and Luton, where Leonardo manufacture defensive aids systems, and Crawley, where subcontractor Thales UK provide support to communication and aircraft management systems.

Both Navy and Army Wildcats are housed at the Royal Naval Air Station. 

More: 'Wildcat Attack Helicopter Arrives On HMS Ocean'

The five-year deal will deliver a range of support and training services for the UK’s entire fleet of 62 AW159 Wildcats, currently in service with the Royal Navy and Army Air Corps.

Wildcat operators include 825 and 847 Naval Air Squadron and 652 and 661 Squadron Army Air Corps.

Army air corps
A British Army Lynx helicopter - the Lynx is being phased out

Chief Executive Officer for the UK’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) Organisation, Tony Douglas, said:

“This agreement builds on many decades of joint working between the MOD and Leonardo helicopters, recently recognised through the signature of a Strategic Partnering Arrangement with the company. The deal for Wildcat support has been designed to guarantee value for money for the taxpayer by delivering the required levels of operational output at a reduced cost”.

“Wildcat is a world-leading aircraft perfectly suited to operations on board the Royal Navy’s front-line warships such as the Type 23 Frigate, Type 45 Destroyer and Type 26 Global Combat Ship and in delivering the British Army’s airborne battlefield tasks, such as reconnaissance, command and control and force protection. Advanced design and capabilities will enable it to support the Royal Navy and British Army for decades to come”.

Minister for defence procurement Harriett Baldwin said:

"This Wildcat deal delivers a key capability for the Royal Navy and Army, and supports vital high-skilled jobs in Somerset, where there's a proud tradition of supporting UK helicopter operations.

"Wildcat is one of the world's most advanced helicopters and an important part of the government's 10-year £178bn plan to provide our armed forces with the equipment they deserve."

The Wildcat will replace the Lynx Mk8, which is slowly being retired after 35 years in service 

The Lynx should all be replaced this year.

Cover image: Paul Nelhams from Shannon, Ireland

More: 'How To Build A Wildcat Helicopter'

Topics: