Royal Navy Upgrades Merlin Submarine-Hunting Helicopter

The Royal Navy has received the final upgraded unit of its AW101 Merlin Mk3/3a submarine-hunting helicopter from Leonardo.

A total of 25 Merlin aircraft were sent to the Italian firm to undergo a life sustainment program and be converted to the Mk4/4a configuration.

According to the company, the upgraded choppers have been fitted with new cockpit avionics.

They also have a new folding main rotor head and folding tail to allow the aircraft to operate from the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers and Albion-class landing ships.

With the modifications, the Merlin helicopters will now operate from amphibious ships and provide a sea-to-shore assault capability to British forces.

‘Game-Changing Upgrade’

In addition to avionics, the Mk4/4a Merlin helicopters have been integrated with a new tactical processor that allows aircrew to better understand their tactical environment and enemy threats.

The modification also includes a state-of-the-art Glass Panel cockpit display system with five separate screens to show moving maps and high-resolution images from the electro-optical camera.

The choppers have also been fitted with a new fast roping beam for rapid deployment of Special Forces.

“The Merlin Mark 4 is proving to be a game-changing capability upgrade for the CHF (Commando Helicopter Force),” CHF commanding officer Mark Johnson said.

“It has already demonstrated itself to be a critical enabler of the Royal Navy’s strategic outputs – contributing to the security of the UK and delivering the United Kingdom’s Commando Forces in the littoral.”

Merlin helicopters
The AW101 Mk4/4a Merlin helicopters on a carrier’s landing dock. Photo: Leonardo

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