Wildcat meets Merlin Mk2
The future of Naval Aviation came face to face when two new additions to the Royal Navy’s helicopter fleet met at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose.
The AgustaWestland AW159, “Wildcat HMA2” met his bigger brother the AgustaWestland AW101, “Merlin Mk 2”. Both aircraft, part of a future look for Naval Aviation well into the next decade, were together for the first time on a flight line at the Cornish Fleet Air Arm Base, going through their paces before joining frontline Naval Air Squadrons at Yeovilton and Culdrose.
The Merlin Mk 2 has recently been accepted into service with 824 NAS and an intensive programme to train up aircrew and engineers from the other three Merlin squadrons, 814, 820 and 829 NAS is in full flow. In all Culdrose will be home to 30 of the updated Mark 2 Merlin helicopters, which has been billed as the world’s most technologically advanced anti-submarine and maritime patrol helicopter.
The Navy’s Wildcat HMA2 is similarly going through an extensive programme of trials and tactical development before entering service with 815 NAS, where it will serve alongside the Lynx on the frontline during a transition period in 2015. The Wildcat, Maritime Attack Helicopter is currently part of 700 (W) NAS who are working to optimise operating procedures and ensure safe and efficient delivery of the Wildcat’s Operational Capability.
Wildcat’s visit to Cornwall is part of its programme, conducting radar trails and search & rescue development with other navy assets in the Mounts Bay area and identifying deployment support needed for the new helicopter when operating away from its home base.
“It’s a great privilege to be part of a new helicopters progress”, said Lieutenant Commander Mike Wingfield Ops Officer 700 (W). “Wildcat is an awesome piece of kit and is certainly out performing all our expectations. The mission systems onboard are giving us a far greater capability and range than the Lynx”.
Both the Merlin Mk 2 and Wildcat HMA 2 together have certainly created a lot of interest with personnel at RNAS Culdrose who have noted how new and exciting the pair look together on the Flight line.