EH101 in Service and in Demand
GKN-Westland, February 13, 2001 - Yeovil, UK - The Release to Service for the Royal Air Force’s EH101 Merlin HC Mk3 helicopters was signed on January 11 2001 by the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Philip Sturley, at the UK’s Ministry of Defence. This marks the moment the RAF accepts the clearance of their aircraft that will now enable progress to advanced training of its pilots using RAF instructors.
Eight EH101 Merlin Mk3 support helicopters have already been accepted by the Merlin Integrated Project Team and a further fourteen are in production with four planned for delivery in the first quarter of 2001. Two aircraft are currently at the Defence Evaluation Research Agency at Boscombe Down undertaking a range of trials whilst five are at Yeovil undertaking additional trials activities. RAF Benson have two helicopters that are being used for initial aircrew training.
The issue of the Release to Service will now enable advanced training to commence at RAF Benson. This RTS will be developed during 2001/02 to enable No 28 Squadron to use the full capability of the Merlin Mk3 in day and night operations.
Another important milestone was recently achieved when a Merlin Mk3 successfully completed a series of troop loading trials in a tactical environment on Salisbury Plain Military Training Ranges using fully equipped airmobile soldiers of the 1st Battalion Green Howards. This confirmed EH101’s ability to embark and disembark troops rapidly if their landing site were to come under hostile fire. Every soldier carried some 50 kg of equipment making his total weight at least 130 kg, with an overall average of 140kg. Timed runs were carried out in front of representatives from the Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) and the loading and unloading of 24 troops was achieved well within the target times mandated for tactical military operations. This confirms the capability of Merlin Mk3 to transport troops in hostile tactical situations at minimum risk
In anticipation of the commencement of Merlin Mk3 operations by No 28 Squadron, RAF air and ground crews have undergone intensive training and familiarisation programmes at Westland’s customer training centre. Eight pilots, three navigators and seven air loadmasters have completed their initial training and over two hundred technical and managerial staff have completed their conversion courses.
An essential element of training post initial training is also based at RAF Benson in the form of the Medium Support Helicopter Aircrew Training Facility (MSHATF) which has already begun training personnel on the Mk3. This facility includes state-of-the-art Mk3 flight simulators, the second of which is scheduled to meet its operational date of April 1.
Canada has become the first third-party customer to use these facilities at RAF Benson as Canadian Armed Forces Labrador helicopter crews recently started conversion training courses to operate the CH-149 Cormorant, Canada’s new search and rescue helicopter which will replace the CH-113 Labrador.
The first four of Canada’s 15 new search and rescue helicopters are now flying and assembly of the tenth aircraft is well advanced at Agusta’s Vergiate facility. The first unit to receive Cormorant will be 442 Transport & Rescue Squadron at 19 Wing in Comox, British Columbia. This base will host five helicopters that will form the Operational Training Unit and the remaining ten aircraft will be divided between 413 Squadron at 14 Wing in Greenwood, Nova Scotia, 424 Squadron at 8 Wing in Trenton, Ontario and 103 Squadron at 9 Wing in Gander, Newfoundland.
Thanks to an excellent working relationship with the Canadian Departments of National Defense and of Public Works and Government Services, the manufacturing programme is both on schedule and on budget. In addition, $629 million of direct and indirect investment will be secured with the Canadian aerospace industry over eight years. To date, over $475 million has already been spent with over 80 Canadian companies.
With over 30 aircraft delivered to date, EH101 has underlined its suitability to meet the needs of a number of countries in Europe. Ireland’s Department of Defence is expected to initiate a tendering process in the near future for the supply of three search and rescue and two utility helicopters for the Irish Defence Forces. Portugal, which has a requirement for up to 12 search and rescue and 2 fishery protection variants, has subjected EH101 to exhaustive trials including a successful 1750 km search and rescue mission lasting more than eight hours with the aircraft retaining considerable fuel in reserve.
The Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden have a requirement for between 60 and 100 helicopters over the next 10 years. The multi-national team is now considering the bids from EH Industries and its competitors Eurocopter Cougar, Sikorsky S-92 and NH Industries' NH-90. As part of the current test and evaluation phase, EH101 has been subjected to a rigorous examination of its capabilities for search and rescue and tactical transport.
Over 26 flying hours were logged during a ten day evaluation in both civil and military variants of EH101. During the seven days programmed for flying, not one sortie was lost, delayed or curtailed due to unserviceability. Weather conditions ranged from stormy to calm during the most comprehensive assessment of the aircraft's capabilities. All requirements were met during the flying evaluation and 100% of customer requirements were demonstrated throughout this evaluation confirming EH101 as the most advanced medium-lift helicopter in its class.
With 98 EH101 aircraft on order, 34 have been delivered and a further 10 are awaiting delivery and the EH101 fleet has now completed over 15,000 flying hours in total. The world’s first fully operational civil EH101, based in Japan, belongs to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. EH101 was chosen for its long range, high capacity and safety - essential attributes in roles such as emergency evacuation. The aircraft has already passed some 550 flying hours. The completion of so many flying hours in such a short time highlights EH101’s smooth introduction into service.
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