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UK eyes Wildcats for manned surveillance role

Army Air Corps Wildcat helicopters may take on the manned surveillance role within the UK. (Janes/Patrick Allen)

BritishArmy Air Corps (AAC) Wildcat battlefield observation helicopters are being proposed to take over the manned surveillance role within the UK, duties currently held by Gazelle light observation helicopters.

The new plan to re-equip 5 Regiment AAC, which currently operates the Gazelle from the Aldergrove Flying Station in Northern Ireland, emerged after it was confirmed by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) last month that five Airbus H135 helicopters purchased to take onthe manned surveillance role have been placed in storage without entering service.

Senior sources in UK Joint Helicopter Command told Janes on 3 April that the proposed plan is for helicopters to be drawn from the fleet of 34 AAC Wildcats based at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset for the manned surveillance tasking in Northern Ireland and the UK mainland. The new arrangements are expected to be confirmed in the MoD's Defence Command Paper to be published in the summer.

5 RegimentAAC is the last UK operator of the Gazelle, and in January 2023, the MoD stated it had 17 aircraft in its inventory, with 14 in daily use. Defence Procurement Minister Alex Chalk told parliament on 6 March 2023 that the helicopters' planned out-of-service date was March 2024. He said the five H135s were delivered between October 2022 and February 2023 as part of Project Matcha to replace the Gazelles, adding, β€œAnyrequirement to replace [the]Gazelle with another crewed aviation platform will be framed by the 2021 Defence Rotary Wing Strategy and evolving operational demands.”

An army spokesperson told Janes

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