The UK’s Royal Navy has received the first of a fleet of new Commando Merlin Mk4 helicopters designed for Royal Marine aircraft carrier operations. They have been acquired to replace the veteran Sea Kings.
Commando Merlin Mk4 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, the UK’s ministry of defense said in a statement Thursday.
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.
Defence Minister Guto Bebb said, “This new version of the Merlin will provide an essential bridge between sea and land for our Marines operating from ships, including our brand-new aircraft carriers. This fleet will deliver troops and supplies to the centre of the action, be that a conflict zone or the site of a humanitarian disaster, as well as providing search and rescue cover.”
The Commando Merlin Mk4 aircraft, an upgrade from the Merlin Mk3 standard, are being delivered through a £388 million contract between the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) and Leonardo Helicopters.
DE&S Director Helicopters Air Vice-Marshal Graham Russell said, “We look forward to all 25 aircraft being fully operational by 2023. DE&S will also ensure the Commando Merlin are supported with a full training and support solution.”