Lynx to go to FAA Museum
A Royal Naval Lynx Helicopter, XZ720 with a proud history of frontline combat Maritime service over four decades has been handed over to the Fleet Air Arm Museum at the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton.
XZ720 entered service with the Royal Navy at Yeovilton on 815 Naval Air Squadron in 1980 and has had a remarkable record. She saw active service with HMS Alacrity in the Falklands War, where she was on the receiving end of machine gun fire from an Argentinian gun boat. The Pilot, Lieutenant Rob Sleeman fortunately avoiding a bullet, which came through his windscreen, only by turning his head.
Deployments on many Royal Navy warships after 1982 followed until she joined 216 Flight onboard the Type 42 Destroyer HMS Gloucester. Flown by Lieutenant Commander David Livingstone and Sub Lieutenant Florry Ford, XZ720 was to have her finest hour during Operation GRANBY in 1991. It was during GRANBY that she was responsible for attacking and sinking five Iraqi Gun Boats with Sea Skua missiles. Notably the highest scoring Lynx of the Gulf War. For his actions Lt Cdr Dave Livingstone received the Distinguished Service Cross.
The aircraft’s remarkable record is emblazoned on her paintwork in the five black missiles on either side of her fuselage. The Observer, Lieutenant Commander Florry Ford told how they earned their remarkable tally including three sinking's in one day. “On January 30 we were on a patrol and got a contact which was a patrol boat which the Iraqis had taken from the Kuwaiti Navy. We fired one Sea Skua missile and then saw another contact appeared from nowhere, so as soon as we saw the first target sink, we fired on the second, It was a Russian-built mine-layer”. Later that day they struck a third target close by. Ten days later they were tasked to search for a mine at night, under the dubious light of parachute flares, when they spotted a Russian-built landing ship on its way to resupply Iraqi forces. They fired two missiles but also came under attack from two surface-to-air missiles. To avoid disaster Dave Livingstone flew the superbly agile helicopter within 20 feet of the sea. The enemy missiles passed just 180 feet away.
XZ720’s restoration back to her 1991 Gulf War state was completed by the Lynx Operational Support Team, at RNAS Yeovilton. They had been asked to prepare a Lynx to be gifted to the Museum. “XZ720 was involved in both the Falklands and the Gulf campaigns and so its history made it a prime candidate for this honour,” said CPO Steve Walling, from the Lynx Helicopter Force.
Serviceable parts were also removed for the use of the serving Lynx fleet, and replaced by others. The aircraft has been on active service up until her retirement.
RNAS Yeovilton’s Commanding officer, Commodore Paul Chivers OBE, himself a Lynx Observer, accepted the helicopter on behalf of the museum of which he is a trustee. Museum director Graham Mottram said: “We are delighted to have her; she is proof that history is a continuing process.”