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The Army Air Corps no 9 Regiment; AAC Dishforth July 8, 2008

The British Armed Helicopter Units; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

On Tuesday, July 8, 2008 I was welcome at the British AAC Dishforth at the beginning of my UK tour. Dishforth is a small helicopter field located 20 miles north of Leeds. This base is one of the home stations of the Royal Army Lynx helicopters. There are three active squadrons at AAC Dishforth.

For me the UK journey started at half past two in the morning in Tilburg. We travelled by car to Calais were we passed the English channel by boat. We arrived at AAC Dishforth after a ride of more than 10 hours. We had to report ourselves at 2 pm at the main gate of this base from where our base visit would start. Of course we were way too early and therefore we had the opportunity to drive around this base and have a look of what we could expect during the visit. After we reported ourselves at the main gate we saw that a small group of 12 people had already gathered for the base visit. Our guide during the visit was a young Lynx pilot who would move to RAF Benson next year to fly the Merlin over there. Dishforth is quite a small field of the British AAC (Army Air Corps) and here you can find the 9th regiment of the British Royal Army which is equipped with the Lynx helicopter. This regiment is divided into three squadrons; no 653 squadron is operational with the Lynx AH9 while no 669 and no 672 squadrons fly the Lynx AH7. The difference between the Lynx AH7 and AH9 is easily recognizable; the Lynx AH7 has skids for landing while the Lynx AH9 is equipped with a robust set of wheels. According to our guide, each squadron owns a total of eight helicopters. The AAC uses the Lynx in different roles; troop transport, observation and attack. The helicopter can therefore fly in different configurations depending on the type of mission which it will fly at that moment.

The Westland Lynx is a helicopter designed by the British manufacturer Westland, in cooperation with the French Aerospatiale. Westland and Aerospatiale worked together in the late sixties on the development of three helicopters, namely; the Puma, the Gazelle and the Lynx. Aerospatiale developed the biggest part of the first two types, while Westland designed the biggest part of the Lynx. The helicopter is built in the Westland factory in Yeovil. The helicopter flew for the first time on March 21, 1971 as the Westland WG.13. Military interest led to the development of the Army Lynx

although the helicopter was originally intended for civil and maritime use. The Lynx is one of the most maneuverable helicopters in the world and it is able to perform a full looping. The British Army ordered 100 Lynx AH (Army Helicopter) Mk.1 helicopters. The helicopters are used for various purposes, such as; tactical transport, armed escort, anti-tank warfare (with eight TOW missiles), reconnaissance and evacuation. The army placed a Marconi Elliot AFCS system on the Lynx for automatic stabilization on three axes. The Lynx is now in use in many different countries, including; Great-Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and France.

Inside the first hangar which we visited we found a Gazelle and a Lynx; both helicopters were in excellent positions for some photographs. This was only the warming-up for what would become a nice afternoon with some interesting photo moments. Our guide asked us what we really wanted to see during the visit after we had visited the first hangar. For us it was quite clear; we wanted to see the helicopters on the flightline for some action shots of the Lynx. The flightline was just a simple platform covered with grass between the plates of concrete. On this platform were three helicopters and two crew members were preparing the helicopters for a local flight. The first rotor blades started to move on those helicopters after 15 minutes of waiting. One Lynx AH-7 and one Lynx AH-9 took off and flew away from the field. The conditions were very well for some decent action shots of those helicopters. The third Lynx remained on the platform and the ground crew was working on this Lynx. After we saw the take-off of those two helicopters, we went to the second hangar in which we found several Lynx helicopters. We had again the opportunity to take pictures of them from all possible angels and positions. This hangar was the main maintenance hangar of this base and mechanics were working on several airframes inside this building. After the short tour through the maintenance hangar we went back to the flight line to see the returning helicopters.

The pilots of these two Lynx helicopters saw us very quickly and they both came into a hover right in front of our group. They were hovering on a height of about 5 meters. The first Lynx turned around its full axis and we could take pictures of it from many different angles. The second Lynx came that close that at one particular point I couldn’t zoom back anymore with my 100-400 zoom lens. I couldn’t get the full helicopter on one image because of that. A third Lynx appeared at the horizon after the landing of these first two Lynx helicopters; this was the Lynx AH-7 which had left earlier this afternoon. Also this Lynx came into a hover right in front of us. The door of this lynx was opened and there was a gunner sitting in front of the opening. This gave us a totally different effect on the helicopter than on the ones we saw before. It was clear that this Lynx was equipped for a different role than the previous ones. We went back to the first hangar which we visited earlier this afternoon after the last Lynx had landed. Once arrived in the hangar it was time to say goodbye to our guide because the base visit at Dishforth was over. Our guide said he would fly the Merlin next year at RAF Benson in the south of England and that we were more than welcome to see the Merlin next year. When we arrived back at the main gate of Dishforth, it was time to continue our journey to the far North of the UK. The next ride would take more than four hours to Scotland where we would have a base visit at RAF Leuchars the next day. The visit at AAC Dishforth was a great success for me and I had a great time at this small helicopter base. We did not see many helicopters, but the photo opportunities and weather conditions were more than perfect. With a card full of pictures we left inbound RAF Leuchars to see some RAF Tornado’s. Back home a few days later I realized that Dishforth was one of the highlights of my UK tour.




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