The first of a fleet of new Commando Merlin Mk4 helicopters, designed for Royal Marine aircraft carrier operations, has been delivered to Royal Navy.
The Commando Merlin Mk4 aircraft, an upgrade from the Merlin Mk3 standard, are being delivered through a £388 million contract between Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) and Leonardo Helicopters.
The helicopter 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.
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.