GKN-Westland, May 24, 2000 - The Royal Navy's new EH101 Merlin Mk1 helicopter has returned from its latest series of trials having demonstrated once again that it is the most advanced system of its kind in the world today.
Merlin Prime Contractor and Systems Integrator Lockheed Martin UK can confirm that trials to test the submarine fighting capability of the Merlin System have been highly successful and completed in less time than expected.
The trials were conducted at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) on Andros Island in the Bahamas to test the submarine fighting capability of the Merlin System. The US-managed facility provides the perfect deep-water instrumented environment in which to detect, hunt, locate and attack submarines. The trials involved three Merlin aircraft supported by a team of up to 65 personnel including representatives from the RN and DERA as well as an industry team including staff from Lockheed Martin and their subcontractors. The largest contingent was from EH101 manufacturer GKN Westland Helicopters of Yeovil. Three Merlin Mk1 Operational Development Crews (MODC) seconded from the Flag Officer Naval Aviation (FONA) flew the aircraft during the trials.
Six major tests and nearly 200 flight hours were completed during the AUTEC trials. Merlin achieved excellent reliability throughout with a flying rate of 60 hours per aircraft over a 30 day period. Productivity and efficiency was also high, with aircraft achieving its data gathering objectives in 176 flying hours, 72% of the 245 hours it was predicted to take. One of the most significant exercises was the deployment of the Stingray torpedo by Merlin. A total of eight torpedoes, each fitted with telemetry systems instead of live warheads, were successfully dropped during the trials. In addition, some 800 sonobuoys were deployed.
In similar trials last year, Merlin was so successful in localising the target submarine and prosecuting its simulated attacks that the submarine commander was heard to comment that he was glad that the Merlin will be on the same side when it enters into full service!
Speaking on completion of the trials, Lockheed Martin's Merlin Test Director, Joe Harland, said: " These trials were unique in that we were contracted to conduct Operational Trials. Proving the capability of the system in front of our customer using real ships, submarines and aircraft rather than simulated scenarios is very satisfying. With system performance and test efficiency better than required, we were able to turn the assets and range time over to the customer for freeplay which allowed them to start new tactics development roughly a year earlier than planned."
Lt Cdr Al Howden (RN), officer-in-charge of the MODC crews that took part in the trials, said: " There is nothing out there that can match what we have been doing with Merlin at AUTEC."
The AUTEC tests are the latest in what has been a very successful series of Merlin Trials. In April, the system was involved in the Ship Helicopter Operational Limit (SHOL) trials on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship RFA ARGUS and in February the "PRISM" deck handling system was successfully tested using a Merlin Mk1 on the type 23 frigate, HMS LANCASTER. Future tests include proving the anti-surface warfare capability of the system in a series of trials in the Outer Hebrides.
Lockheed Martin was awarded the £1.5bn Merlin programme in 1991 and is under contract to supply 44 Merlin Weapons Systems to the Royal Navy. Merlin Mk1 is scheduled to enter full operational service at the end of next year. In March of this year deliveries of the Merlin System reached the halfway mark when RN22 was handed over to the Defence Procurement Agency at the Yeovil site of GKN Westland Helicopters.
The Royal Navy Merlin Mk1 is a variant of the EH101 helicopter, designed, developed and built by GKN Westland Helicopters of the UK and Agusta of Italy. The EH101 was designed from the outset to operate in maritime, military utility and civil roles and is the only new technology medium-lift helicopter in production today. Orders for 98 aircraft have been placed to date by the British Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, the Italian Navy, the Canadian Armed Forces and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police.
EH101 Merlin entered service on 1 Dec 1998 with the formation of the Intensive Flying Trials Unit (IFTU) 700M Squadron at RNAS Culdrose. The maritime multi-mission variant of the EH101, Merlin HM Mk1, features a series of state-of-the-art mission systems, including radar, active dipping sonar, data link and electronic surveillance measures, which enable it to carry out its anti-submarine warfare/anti-surface warfare role. The highly versatile system can fulfil many secondary missions, including search and rescue, casualty evacuation, troop transportation and vertical replenishment.
Lockheed Martin UK Ltd combines all its defence, civil and commercial interests in the UK under a single registered company headquartered in London. Lockheed Martin UK Ltd has annual sales of approximately £600m and enjoys more than 70 significant business partnerships in the UK. Lockheed Martin UK employs approximately 1,000 employees at facilities in London, Portsmouth, Havant, Southampton, Yeovil, Swindon, Hertford, Bristol and Cornwall and is a unit of Lockheed Martin Corporation. Lockheed Martin Corporation is a global enterprise principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture and integration of advanced-technology systems, products and services. The Corporation's core businesses are systems integration, space, aeronautics and technology services. Lockheed Martin had 1999 sales surpassing $25bn.