THE first of the Royal Navy’s new helicopters has taken to the air for its maiden flight.
The Wildcat maritime attack variant helicopters will join Portsmouth-based ships when they replace the Lynx Mark 8 from 2015.
Wildcats have a more powerful engine, which means they can be flown in extreme conditions.
When in service, the helicopters will join HMS Illustrious and the future carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.
They can also be flown from frigates and destroyers as needed.
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, the Royal Navy’s Chief of Naval Staff, said: ‘As a ship-borne helicopter, Wildcat will provide commanders with a flexible attack capability which can be deployed to tackle a range of threats at sea and from the sea.
‘With state of the art sensors, equipment and weapons, it will be an outstanding asset that will maintain naval units at the cutting edge of worldwide maritime operations.’
Wildcats will carry Sting Ray torpedoes, a door-mounted heavy machine gun and variants of the Anti-Surface Guided Weapon Missiles.
The helicopters will be used in anti-surface warfare, force protection and counter-piracy.
It will also be able to carry out an anti-submarine role.
The Royal Navy will receive 28 of the helicopters.