AgustaWestland announced that it has delivered the first of seven upgraded AW101 Merlin HC Mk3 helicopters to the Royal Navy as part of Phase 1 of the Merlin Life Sustainment Programme (MLSP). The first AW101 Merlin HC Mk3 aircraft has undergone a number of modifications, including the introduction of a folding main rotor head, naval lashing rings, revised twin wheel main undercarriage for ship operations, and fast roping capability. The upgraded aircraft completed its first flight in April of this year and completed flight trials at the end of August. Following formal Release to Service in September, the aircraft has now been delivered and will be followed by six further aircraft to provide an Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in spring 2016, when the final Sea King HC Mk4 aircraft will be withdrawn from service.
Air Vice-Marshal Julian Young, Director of Helicopters at the MOD’s Defense, Equipment & Support organization, said
“The Merlin Mk3 has demonstrated already it ability to operate in urban and harsh deployed environments, and the interim-standard of the Life Sustainment Programme sees fast-time conversion of the aircraft to operate in its new Littoral Manoeuvre role. I am delighted that we are now firmly in the delivery phase of this programme, and are supporting the Royal Navy and Royal Marines with upgraded, modern Commando Helicopter aircraft. The Merlin Life Sustainment Programme represents a magnificent team effort led by AgustaWestland and the MOD, involving multiple industry suppliers, and delivering on budget and at this point ahead of schedule. I look forward with confidence at the whole programme delivering for the Commando Helicopter Force.”
Conversion of the first Merlin HC Mk3 to Mk4 standard has already started with the arrival of the first aircraft at AgustaWestland’s Yeovil facility in August 2015. The upgraded Merlin HC Mk3, Mk3A, Mk4 and Mk4A aircraft will continue to be supported through the existing Integrated Merlin Operational Support (IMOS) contract, which has been in place since 2006 with AgustaWestland as prime contractor.
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