The UK Royal Marines have taken delivery of the first Commando Merlin Mk4, a faster, more powerful version of the Merlin Mk3 featuring a folding main rotor and tail.
The UK Royal Marines have taken delivery of the first Leonardo AW101 Commando Merlin Mk4, a faster, more powerful version of the Merlin Mk3 optimised for ship operations with automatic main rotor blade folding and tail fold, an uprated undercarriage and enhanced cabin safety features.
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.
The aircraft are fitted with the same advanced technology cockpit developed by Leonardo for the Royal Navy’s Merlin Mk2 aircraft, giving the UK’s Merlin fleet a common cockpit featuring five 10” x 8” integrated display units, two touch screen units for controlling the aircraft’s systems and mission equipment, as well as two cursor control devices to control the tactical displays.
Leonardo has also upgraded the self-protection system on the Commando Merlin. The previously-federated Defensive Aids System (DAS) has been integrated with a latest-generation DAS Controller, which allows the system to rapidly identify hostile weapon systems and initiate appropriate tactics and countermeasures.
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 first Commando Merlins are expected to enter service this summer. A total of 10 aircraft are due to be delivered this year, and the full fleet is currently scheduled to be operational by 2023.
The Commando Merlin Mk4 aircraft are being delivered under a £388m contract between the MoD’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) branch and Leonardo Helicopters.
When not deployed on operations the helicopters will be based at RNAS Yeovilton, the home of CHF since the unit was formed in 1997.
The Commando Merlin Mk4 made its first flight in October 2016.