LOOKS LIKE A MERLIN, FLIES LIKE A MERLIN…
The first of seven next generation Merlin helicopters, the interim Merlin Mk3 (iMk3), has been delivered to 846 Naval Air Squadron, based at the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, marking yet another key milestone for the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF).
Bringing CHF one step closer to achieving full amphibious capability, the iMk3 has undergone a series of marinisation modifications to enable operation from RN and RFA ships, these include; folding main rotor head, strengthened undercarriage and communications upgrades and provide an interim maritime capable Merlin prior to the full upgrade to Merlin Mk4
Lt Cdr JJ Hughes, Maritime Aviation Programme Support Office, Merlin Life Sustainment Programme (MLSP), Programme Manager, said;
“This is a key milestone in the overall MLSP programme and represents the culmination of over 20 months work. Although the aircraft looks little different to the current Merlin Mk3, it brings with it a significant capability increase.”
Under the MLSP contract awarded to AgustaWestland in December 2013, further iMk3s will be delivered to CHF to meet Initial Operating Capability in time for when the Sea King HC Mk4 retires from service.
From late 2017, 25 fully upgraded Merlin Mk4 aircraft will commence delivery to CHF. The Merlin Mk4 will have an upgraded avionics suite as well as provide a full amphibious capability with an automatic folding main rotor head and tail fold, optimised for ship operations.
Lt Cdr Ben McGreal, 846 NAS, said;
“Today marks another key milestone in the history of the Commando Helicopter Force. With more iMk3s due to arrive soon, we’ll be well on our way to delivering real capability to our primary customer – the Royal Marines. It’s also not often that you can say that you’re the first to fly a new type of aircraft in the Royal Navy, so today is a very special day!”
The Merlin iMk3 and Mk4 aircraft will be operated by 845 and 846 Naval Air Squadrons in extreme climates, conditions and terrain ranging from theArcticto tropical jungle to the desert and from ship to shore in support of the Royal Marines.