Merlin Mk2s enter operational service early
Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose’s Merlin Mk 2, the UK's next generation of submarine-hunters, have entered Operational Service with the Royal Navy four months earlier than planned.
The announcement came at this year’s Farnborough International Air Show in Hampshire after Nine Merlins Mk 2’s were put through their paces recently on Exercise Deep Blue in the North Atlantic. Embarked on HMS Illustrious, the worlds most advanced Submarine Hunting helicopter simulated its anti-submarine warfare and maritime patrol capabilities as well as the aircraft’s casualty evacuation role.
Commander Ben Franklin, commander of the Royal Navy’s Merlin force, said the aim of the exercise had been to test the capabilities of the upgraded helicopter.
“The Merlin’s role in defence is extremely complex … in our demanding maritime environment, we had to generate and deliver until complexity becomes routine, and that was one of the challenges of Exercise Deep Blue.”
The new helicopters are part of an £800 million programme to upgrade the Royal Navy's existing fleet of Merlin Mk 1’s. The New aircraft have been delivered on budget, with state-of-the-art glass cockpits providing improved night-vision capability for pilots, and an updated combat system with touch screen displays.
More than 1,400 highly skilled engineers from UK defence companies were involved in the work across the country. Lockheed Martin UK delivered the updated mission systems and training facility, and workers at AgustaWestland upgraded the avionics and cockpit systems in the aircraft.
"The updated Merlin is one of the most technologically-advanced and effective anti-submarine helicopters, and their entry into service is a real boost for the Royal Navy”, said Philip Dunne, Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology at Farnborough. "Delivering the Merlin Mk2 into service 4 months ahead of schedule and to budget is a real achievement and shows how MOD is working well with industry to deliver world-class equipment to our armed forces."
In the future Merlin Mk2 helicopters will serve on board the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth as well as operating from frigates, destroyers and Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ships around the world. A further 15 aircraft will arrive at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall over the next 18 months.