Iconic Lynx helicopter retires after 40 years’ service

Royal Navy frigate, HMS Norfolk in the North Sea off the coast of East Anglia - The boats Lynx helic

Royal Navy frigate, HMS Norfolk in the North Sea off the coast of East Anglia - The boats Lynx helicopter landing on board. Picture: James Bass - Credit: EDP/ Archant © 2003

An iconic military aircraft frequently seen in East Anglia's skies has taken off for the last time.

A view from the Lynx as it lands on HMS Norfolk. Picture: James Bass

A view from the Lynx as it lands on HMS Norfolk. Picture: James Bass - Credit: EDP/ Archant © 2003

The Lynx helicopter is making a farewell tour after serving the British Army and Royal navy for almost 40 years.

Entering service in 1978, the chopper has been used for a variety of tasks over land and sea.

To mark its decommissioning from service on January 31, the Army Air Corps today flew four of the last remaining Lynxs from RAF Odiham in Hampshire on a commemorative tour.

Commanding officer of 657 Squadron, Maj James Peycke, said bidding farewell to the 'iconic machine' was a huge moment for everyone who has flown the Lynx over the years.

A Lynx at the Lowestoft Air Festival 2005. Picture: Adrian Judd

A Lynx at the Lowestoft Air Festival 2005. Picture: Adrian Judd - Credit: Archant © 2004


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'It is hugely emotional saying goodbye to the Lynx after six years of flying, and it carves out a big chunk of your heart,' he said.

Describing the aircraft as 'hugely manoeuvrable', Maj Peycke said there is 'never a dull day when you are flying' one.

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The four Mk9 Lynx lifted off to thunder around the UK's skies, taking in sites and locations including Yeovil, Middle Wallop and Upavon, before also flying in formation, led by a Chinook helicopter, along the length of the River Thames in central London.

Speaking before they departed, Maj Peycke, who was flying in the lead Lynx, said they would have liked to include more locations on the tour but were restricted by winter daylight hours.

A Lynx lands with the matchball at Ipswich FC's Portman Road ground. Picture: Jamie Niblock.

A Lynx lands with the matchball at Ipswich FC's Portman Road ground. Picture: Jamie Niblock.

When pressed on how he will feel as the wheels touch down for one of the final times at RAF Odiham, he said it would be an 'incredibly emotional moment'.

'Not only does it mark the out-of-service date for the Lynx, the 75th anniversary of the squadron (657) which was formed in 1943, but also the closure of the squadron (in May) and the end of my tour as an officer commanding, so it will be an incredibly emotional moment, particularly as we come back in - I'm probably going to have a lump in my throat,' he added.

Described as a primary battlefield utility helicopter, over the decades the Lynx has also destroyed tanks, evacuated the wounded, gathered intelligence, and provided humanitarian support.

It has been deployed on operations across the world, including the jungles of South East Asia and Central America, the sub-zero Arctic, the Middle East, and has supported troops on active service in Bosnia, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone.

The Lynx is set to be replaced within the British Army by the Wildcat, which has more powerful engines and can operate at a higher altitude.

Air Trooper Toby Tibbitts, a ground crew specialist, who has been in the military for two-and-a-half years, said this is his first and only squadron so far, and seeing the Lynx go is a 'sad day' but a proud one.

Quizzed about his favourite moment involving the helicopter, he said fast roping out of a Lynx over a desert was a 'pretty special experience' and one he will not forget.

He said the replacement Wildcat 'seems like a good aircraft', and that, with the positive trials and exercises, plus upgraded avionics and engines, the 'future is looking bright'.

The Lynx was also used by the Royal Navy, whose helicopters went out of service in March last year after more than 41 years of operations.

As a workhorse of the military over the years, the Lynx, which carries three crew plus six troops with full kit, has also been involved in a number of tragedies during its years of service.

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