AW159 on target

06 December 2023

Since the first successful firings of the Thales ‘Martlet’ Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM) from Leonardo’s AW159 Wildcat helicopter in 2020, the Royal Navy has continued to develop its tactics, techniques, and procedures with successful missile firings against aerial targets. As such, the helicopter has proven its ability to engage land, sea and now air targets.

Taking place in Wales, UK, a RNAS Yeovilton-based AW159 Wildcat helicopter conducted the missile firing trial. One of the AW159 Wildcat’s roles is fleet protection within a Carrier Strike Group. The missile trial is a prerequisite for it performing that role and this latest set of trials has confirmed its ability to deal with airborne threats.

In addition to dealing with multiple surface threats, the LMM Martlet allows operators to engage air targets, such as UAVs and other crewed systems, giving the Wildcat greater teeth and the adversary more to consider when the Wildcat is airborne. According to the Royal Navy on the recent trials, the Martlet "neutralised the equivalent of small, fast-moving craft [such as] speed boats and jet skis… and airborne threats."

The launchers are mounted to the AW159 Wildcat via the Leonardo Weapon Wing. Each weapon wing can carry up to ten Martlet and two Sea Venom missiles or 20 Martlet missiles. The launchers are also designed to provide additional lift in forward flight. This enhances aircraft performance at heavier payloads when weapons are carried and provides further operational capacity and flexibility.

The AW159 Wildcat has also been proven to interface seamlessly with uncrewed systems, without the addition of hardware or crew. This provides a combination of systems with greater persistence and flexibility to perform complex operations across all domains. For naval operations, this enhancement further capitalises on the AW159’s excellent ship borne characteristics with a Deck Lock (‘Harpoon’) system and negative thrust to enable maximum safety during deck operations in sea conditions up to Sea State 6.

The crewed-uncrewed combination not only allows for greater Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) capability from the air, but also allows an operational commander to combine the delivery of persistent surveillance from an uncrewed system with a high availability, high readiness AW159, which is able to react immediately from ship-borne alerts states.

The multi-role AW159 ably conducts missions ranging from peacetime Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief, through to constabulary and on to high-end warfighting operations. It has the capability to autonomously detect, identify at range and attack targets on land and at sea, including submarine threats.

An asset which packs a significant punch for operational commanders, the AW159 Wildcat significantly enhances the Royal Navy’s ISTAR, Search and Rescue, Maritime Interdiction, Anti-Surface Warfare, Anti-Submarine Warfare and Logistics Support operations, all the time remaining fully integrated and interoperable with other naval, NATO and coalition assets.

AW159 Multi-Role Land and Naval Helicopter

The AW159 twin-engine multi-mission military helicopter is capable of autonomous detection, identification and attack of Land and Naval targets, featuring state-of-the-art avionics and mission systems for excellent crew situational awareness, along with complete suite of self-protection measures facilitating rapid tactical assessment in any theatre of operations.

AW159 Multi-Role Land and Naval Helicopter