First Commando Merlin Mk4 Delivered to Royal Navy
UK Fleet Air Air took delivery of the first of 25 upgraded Commando Merlin Mk4 ( Merlin HC.4 ) to support the Royal Marines Commando Force
UK Ministry of Defence, May 24, 2018 - Defence Minister Guto Bebb has today announced the delivery of the first of a fleet of new helicopters designed for Royal Marine aircraft carrier operations.
The helicopter, known as the Commando Merlin Mk4, has been upgraded to a faster and more powerful aircraft than its predecessor. It now sports a maritime grey coat, has a folding main rotor and tail, upgraded flight controls and a tactical computer. The modifications are designed to ensure it can now operate from sea, and it will take off from ships including the UK’s new 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth.
A total of 25 Commando Merlin aircraft will be delivered to the air wing of the Royal Marines - the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) –- who will use them to deliver troops and supplies from sea to land.
Defence Minister Guto Bebb said:
“This new version of the Merlin will provide an essential bridge between sea and land for our Marines operating from ships, including our brand-new aircraft carriers. This fleet will deliver troops and supplies to the centre of the action, be that a conflict zone or the site of a humanitarian disaster, as well as providing search and rescue cover. Flown from the Yeovil factory to now be homed here, this is another way defence is supporting the South West, where we spent over £5bn last year – more than any other region in the UK.”
The Commando Merlin Mk4 aircraft, an upgrade from the Merlin Mk3 standard, are being delivered through a £388 million contract between the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) and Leonardo Helicopters, supporting 175 skilled jobs at Leonardo in Yeovil, and a further 500 across the UK supply chain.
Last year the MOD’s highest spend per person in the UK was in the South West, where £920 was spent for each member of the population – totalling around £5,079,000,000. Defence spending in the region also supported one in every 60 jobs there – the highest proportion of jobs support by MOD expenditure in the UK, totalling 33,500 jobs.
DE&S Director Helicopters Air Vice-Marshal Graham Russell said:
“DE&S is proud to have delivered the first Merlin Mk4 to the Royal Navy. Today underscores that DE&S and their industrial partners are delivering. And delivering more with less, thanks to our effective change programme and fantastic staff.”
“We look forward to all 25 aircraft being fully operational by 2023. DE&S will also ensure the Commando Merlin are supported with a full training and support solution, so they are always available to be deployed across the globe.”
The delivery will allow air crews to familiarise themselves with the Commando Merlin before they enter service, expected in the summer. They have been acquired to replace the veteran Sea Kings.
When not deployed on operations the helicopters will be based at RNAS Yeovilton, the home of CHF since the unit was formed in 1997.
CHF, known as the ‘Junglies’, have served in a commando support role in theatres of operations including Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan.
It’s the ability to fold the tail section – which has been completely rebuilt for the Mk4 - and the rotor heads which assist flying from Royal Navy carriers in particular.
Colonel Lenny Brown RM, the Officer Commanding Commando Helicopter Force said:
“Commando Helicopter Force provides aerial support to the Royal Marines, be they at sea, in an assault ship or in the sand and dust of Afghanistan.”
“My air crews will soon begin training to fly the Commando Merlin from the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers, marking the start of a new era of Commando support operations.”
The news was trailed by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson earlier today, at the RUSI Sea Power Conference in London. Whilst there, he also announced that all Type 23 frigates will be fitted with the Sea Ceptor air defence system – starting with HMS Argyll as she is deployed to the Asia-Pacific to visit ports across the region.
Leonardo, RNAS Yeovilton – Guto Bebb MP, Minister for Defence Procurement, announced the delivery of the first AW101 Commando Merlin Mk4 helicopter during a ceremony held at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton yesterday. The event marks a major milestone for Leonardo’s Merlin Life Sustainment Programme (MLSP) contract to convert 25 former Royal Air Force Merlin helicopters to fully marinised amphibious support Commando Merlin helicopters for use by the UK’s Commando Helicopter Force.
Geoff Munday, Managing Director of Leonardo Helicopters in the UK, said at the ceremony “The delivery of the first Commando Merlin marks the culmination of over four years of design, development and manufacturing effort by Leonardo here in the UK. The result is the world’s most advanced and capable amphibious support helicopter that can fly faster, further and carry much more than the now retired Commando Sea King, delivering a greatly enhanced capability to the Commando Helicopter Force.”
The Commando Merlin Mk4/4A helicopters are fully optimised for ship operations and include automatic main rotor blade folding and tail fold, an uprated undercarriage and enhanced cabin safety features. The aircraft are also fitted with the same advanced technology cockpit developed by Leonardo for the Royal Navy’s Merlin Mk2 aircraft, giving the UK’s Merlin fleet a common cockpit featuring five 10” x 8” integrated display units, two touch screen units for controlling the aircraft’s systems and mission equipment, as well as two cursor control devices to control the tactical displays.
Leonardo’s electronic warfare experts in Luton have also upgraded the self-protection system on the new Commando Merlin aircraft to provide optimum security. The previously-federated Defensive Aids System (DAS) has been integrated with a latest-generation DAS Controller, which allows the system to rapidly identify hostile weapon systems and initiate appropriate tactics and countermeasures. By introducing a level of automation and integrating DAS functionality with the helicopters’ new cockpit display units, pilot workload is reduced. Leonardo already provides defensive aid suites across the UK Armed Forces’ helicopter fleet and provides Electronic Warfare Operational Support (EWOS) for all of these platforms, allowing the fleet’s protective systems to be re-programmed in response to changing battlefield conditions.
The Commando Merlin aircraft will be fully supported through the existing Integrated Merlin Operational Support (IMOS) contract, which Leonardo has been the prime contractor for since its inception in 2006. IMOS delivers, through an innovative Leonardo and Ministry of Defence partnership, improved aircraft availability and significant cost savings for UK taxpayers.
Leonardo has also been contracted to deliver a range of Commando Merlin synthetic training devices comprising two Flight Training Devices (FTDs), a Flight Navigation Procedures Trainer (FNPT) and a Rear Crew Trainer (RCT). These will be delivered during 2018 and 2019 and installed in the dedicated Commando Helicopter Force training facility located at the aircraft’s main operating base - RNAS Yeovilton. The training devices will enable multi-aircraft and whole crew training, utilising augmented reality to enhance the training experience for the rear crew.
MLSP Contract Background
The MLSP contract, valued at £388 million, was awarded to Leonardo in January 2014 by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD). Phase One comprised the delivery of seven Merlin Mk3 interim aircraft and this was completed on schedule in March 2016. Phase Two will see the delivery of 25 Commando Merlin Mk4/4A aircraft from now through to the end of 2020 with the work being performed at Leonardo Helicopters’ Yeovil facility. The MLSP contract is sustaining hundreds of jobs at Leonardo’s Yeovil facility and many more in the UK wide supply chain.
Photos of the official ceremony. Notice aerial refueling probe
AgustaWestland Merlin HC.3 ZJ129 ( AgustaWestland UK )