TERRITORIAL soldiers from Middle Wallop’s 655 Squadron Army Air Corps were all set to soar to new heights as they tested out the army's next-generation helicopter, the Wildcat, during their annual training exercise It was the army's first opportunity to work with the helicopter, which is due in service in 2014.

With the introduction of the Wildcat, which will replace the current Lynx helicopter, training will be targeted to encompass this new capability, and this exercise provided the reservists with the opportunity to learn about working with the new Wildcat and become familiar with its refuelling and resupply.

The Wildcat will perform a range of tasks on the battlefield including reconnaissance, transportation of troops and materiel, and the provision of force protection.

It will be significantly more powerful than the current Lynx, enabling it to operate in extremely hot conditions and at high altitudes.

The name Wildcat originates from the Grumman F4F Wildcat fighter aircraft which was widely used during the Second World War. The aircraft ceased operational service in 1945.

Commenting on his unit's chance to put the platform through its paces, the commanding officer of 6 Regiment Army Air Corps (Volunteers), Lieutenant Colonel Nigel Banks, said: "It is brilliant for us as a reserve unit to be the first to get up close and personal and work with the Wildcat. The army of the future will rely more than ever on reserve soldiers deploying alongside their regular counterparts, something we have been doing since we were formed in 2006.

"And I believe for a reserve unit to be the first army unit to have this training opportunity reflects the importance of the army reserves, who will need to increase their numbers to meet the demands of the army 2020 structure to reshape the service."