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UK MoD extends life of Royal Navy's Merlin helicopters to 2030.

| 2022

According to information published by the UK MoD on December 5, 2022, the Royal Navy’s Merlin helicopters have been upgraded so they can embark on and operate from vessels anywhere in the world.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Royal Navy's Merlin helicopter. (Picture source: UK MoD)

In total,19 Mk3 aircraft and 6 Mk3a have been upgraded to the Mk4/4a standard to ensure the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) have the capability to provide air support to 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines and other UK forces.

CHF, the wings of the UK Commando Force, also support the Carrier Strike Group, carry out Search and Rescue operations and can enact counter narcotics and anti-piracy operations, maritime security and hurricane relief support if required.

Key upgrades include a new folding main rotor head and folding tail which allows two of the aircraft to fit on just one of the carriers’ aircraft lifts, and an improved defensive aid suite with a system that warns against and locates hostile laser guided weapons. These upgrades mean that many consider the Merlin Mk4/4A to be the worlds most advanced amphibious battlefield helicopter.

The 25 aircraft have been updated by Leonardo Helicopters under the Merlin Life Sustainment Programme (MLSP) negotiated by DE&S.

Additionally, a synthetic trainer includes two new pilot simulators, a procedures trainer and a rear crew training device, employing augmented reality systems.

For the first time, this is co-located at RNAS Yeovilton with CHF, providing a step change in training capability for new aircrew and front-line mission training.

Merlin is cleared to operate from the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, Type 23 frigates and will operate from the Type 45 destroyer.

About the Merlin helicopter

The AgustaWestland AW101 is a medium-lift helicopter in military and civil use. First flown in 1987, it was developed by a joint venture between Westland Helicopters in the United Kingdom and Agusta in Italy in response to national requirements for a modern naval utility helicopter. Several operators, including the armed forces of Britain, Denmark, and Portugal, use the name Merlin for their AW101 aircraft.

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