Book Review – ‘The Royal Navy Lynx: An operational history’ by David Bowen

By David Bowen, published December 2020


The naval version of the Lynx helicopter operated by the Royal Navy has this year (1918) been withdrawn after 40 years of distinguished service. Moreover, it is ‘an aircraft that has never really had its praises sung’, so an account is not only timely but long overdue. One may ask why a book about an aircraft is being reviewed in a nautical journal. Quite simply, as convincingly argued by the author, ‘it has been the most successful weapon system deployed by the Royal Navy since 1945’. One example of this can be found during the First Gulf War when ‘in just two days, two [Lynx helicopters] effectively neutralised the Iraqi Navy’.

The author flew the Lynx operationally and has his own story to tell, but he chooses to base the book mainly upon the largely unpublished memoirs of others. Thus he is able to extend the span of the book to the whole of the helicopter’s long service and relate the widest variety of fresh and frank perspectives. In so doing, he has made the book far more than a technical history of a machine; it is a testament to those who lived and fought with it.

An introduction and early chapters set the scene and track the genesis of this aircraft. In 1966 the need for a new and highly capable small shipborne helicopter led to a consortium of Westland and Aerospatiale designing and manufacturing the Lynx with engines provided by Rolls-Royce.

Thereafter is described the deployment of the Lynx during the Falklands War of 1982 in a variety of roles but most importantly for airborne early warning. After tracing the helicopter’s further development, there is a description of its continuous and significant role in the Gulf from 1980 to date. There follows a chapter devoted to ‘lucky escapes’ of which there were apparently many of the most terrifying kind. It therefore comes as somewhat a relief to the nerves when the book passes on to the honourable role of the Lynx in rescue and humanitarian work and aid to civil powers. The narrative concludes with the author’s own revealing account of flying the Lynx for a number of years. Appendices provide a glossary, performance specifications of all the naval variants and a simple guide to the art of helicopter flying.

… this book is nothing less than extraordinary; combining as it does not only the history of a significant seaborne weapon but also insights into recent conflicts and naval life. It manages to temper a wealth of technical and historical information with a powerful narrative and a human touch …

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Filed under: Atlantic | English Channel | North Sea | Post WW2 | Indian Ocean | Twentieth Century
Subjects include: Miscellaneous | Naval Aviation

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