GKN-Westland, July 04, 2000 - eovil, UK - Air Commodore Bruce Sobey, Leader of the EH101 Merlin project team at the Defence Procurement Agency (DPA), took delivery of the sixth EH101 Merlin HC Mk3 in a ceremony at GKN Westland's Yeovil, UK, factory on Tuesday 27 June 2000. The aircraft was handed over by Andy Moorhead, GKN Westland's EH101 Programme Director.
Production of the Merlin Mk3 has ramped up substantially since the first aircraft was delivered to the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA), Boscombe Down, in January. In addition to the six aircraft already delivered, a further six aircraft are in production for delivery later in the year.
Two aircraft (RAF01 & 02) are nearing completion of the first phase of the Military Aircraft Release (MAR) trials at Boscombe Down and will shortly be joined by a third.
In anticipation of the commencement of Merlin Mk3 operations by 28 Squadron, based at RAF Benson, Oxfordshire, in November, RAF air crew and ground crew have been undergoing an intensive training and familiarisation programme at GKN Westland's customer training centre. Four pilots, two navigators and three air loadmasters started four weeks of ground school training in June and are due shortly to begin six weeks conversion flying on two Mk3's (RAF05 and 06) with GKN Westland pilots. A second group from 28 Squadron will join the training programme in August.
Ground crew training has been taking place at Yeovil since November 1999 and by Spring next year a total of 250 RAF personnel will have passed through the customer training centre. The training has been tailored to meet the specific needs of the RAF maintainers, with courses designed for avionics, airframe, electrical and propulsion specialists.
When it enters service, Merlin Mk3 will greatly augment the capability of the RAF's existing helicopter fleet. Its modern and sophisticated navigation, optical and avionics systems will enable the aircraft to operate in all weathers including the ability to fly in icing conditions in demanding tactical scenarios.
The MK3's uprated engines will give the aircraft an enviable engine-out performance capability in addition to offering c onsiderable efficiency savings. Although designed optimally for the overland tactical role, the helicopter will offer significant strategic flexibility, as it will be fully marinised with an air-to-air refuelling capability.
22 EH101 Merlin HC Mk3 helicopters have been ordered by the British Ministry of Defence for the Royal Air Force.
The Mk3 will carry bulk cargoes, artillery, land rovers and light strike vehicles, heavily equipped combat teams and, when required, will quickly convert to casualty evacuation or humanitarian and disaster relief roles.
Operating away from base workshops, Merlin has the modern technology, including health and usage monitoring, active vibration control and built-in test equipment that facilitates easy maintenance, guarantees high availability and results in much reduced maintenance hours per flying hour compared with current aircraft.
The Mk3's three engines are designed to operate in adverse conditions, including extremes of temperature, icing, dust and sand environments. It is also capable of flying in known icing conditions.
Merlin Mk3 is corrosion proofed for operation from ships and the cockpit is compatible with the latest night vision goggle capability. Fitted with a twin wheel tricycle undercarriage with high flotation, low-pressure tyres, it is more capable of operating from soft terrain than current in-service aircraft.
The Mk3 can carry a maximum payload of more than 4000kg and has a maximum range of over 1,000km. This range can be extended by carrying auxiliary fuel tanks internally or by air-to-air refuelling (AAR). With AAR, Merlin Mk3 can fly for more than twelve hours; two twelve hours sorties would, for example, take the aircraft to the Middle East from the UK.
Current support helicopters are normally deployed over such ranges by sea or have to be stripped down and flown in transport aircraft that are always a scarce resource in times of crisis.
Merlin Mk3's wide rear ramp and sliding freight door provide unprecedented ease of access to the 27.5 cubic metre unobstructed cabin for maximum speed of loading and unloading. 24 troops at full scales, each weighing 130kg, would be the normal army load, but trials using the rear ramp have established that 30 troops with support weapons can be loaded, seated and strapped in under two minutes and can de-plane in under forty seconds.
The constant section cabin and rear ramp gives excellent internal load capability. The requirement for underslung loads, which restrict manoeuvrability, preclude nap-of-the-earth flying and increase vulnerability, is greatly reduced, although the option remains available.
Tough and rugged, Merlin Mk3 meets stringent vulnerability, detectability and crashworthiness targets. The damage tolerant structure is matched with system redundancy and physical separation, signature reduction measures and modern, integrated defensive aids.