Leonardo-Finmeccanica to Deliver 25 Helicopters 2017-2020
Leonardo-Finmeccanica announced on 21 November that the first AW101 MERLIN Mk4 for the Royal Navy successfully completed its maiden flight in October.
Leonardo is upgrading 25 RN MAERLIN Mk3/3A aircraft to MERLIN Mk4/4A standard as part of the n Life Sustainment Programme (MLSP) contract, valued at £330 million and awarded by the MoD in January 2014. Deliveries of aircraft will start in 2017 and continue through to 2020, with the work being performed at Leonardo’s Yeovil facility.
The aircraft are fully optimised for ship operations and include automatic main rotor blade folding and tail fold. They are also fitted with the same cockpit as the RN’s MERLIN Mk2 aircraft, giving the fleet cockpit commonality, featuring five 10inx8in integrated display units, two touch screen units for controlling the aircraft’s systems and mission equipment, and two cursor control devices for the tactical displays. The Mk4 will deliver enhanced capability for the RN Commando Helicopter Force and will be supported through the existing Integrated Merlin Operational Support (IMOS) contract, which has been in place since 2006 with Leonardo as prime contractor.
Captain Kieran O’Brien RN, Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) Merlin Helicopter Project Team Leader, said: “The conversion of the Mk3/3a MERLIN to Mk4/4a has been a real success story so far against demanding timelines and this first flight is excellent news for our Royal Navy ‘Junglie’ customers. The work that goes into preparing for the first flight of a new mark of aircraft is never trivial and this milestone is only made possible due to an excellent team effort led by DE&S and Leonardo Helicopters. We still have a lot of work to do but when the programme is complete the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) will have a very capable Commando Helicopter aircraft ready to fully operate in its maritime environment.”