Safran to Continue Engine Support for Royal Navy Merlin Helicopters

The UK has awarded Safran Helicopter Engines a contract to extend support for Royal Navy Merlin medium-lift rotorcraft engines.

Costing 241 million pounds ($304.3 million), the agreement covers services for the navy’s Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM 322 engines for 55 Merlin helicopters.

The contract includes maintenance, logistics support, and technical guidance for the navy’s operational teams, and on-site field assistance at Royal Naval Air Stations Yeovilton and Culdrose.

Safran wrote that the effort will extend the helicopter fleet’s functionality until its retirement in the 2040s. Work for the project will run for six years at the company’s facility in Fareham.

“We are immensely proud… and are delighted that the [Ministry of Defence] trust us to be their preferred supplier for RTM 322 engine support until the Out-of-Service date of the Merlin helicopter,” Safran Helicopter Engines CEO Cedric Goubet stated.

“We are more than ever committed to the excellent levels of engine availability we have provided to the Merlin fleet during the current contract thanks to our dynamic technical and logistic support model.”

“We are excited to continue our longstanding partnership… and seek to build on our excellent capabilities and facilities in the UK.”

Safran has provided support for the Merlin’s RTM 322 engines since the late 1990s, some of which involved collaboration with propulsion developer Rolls-Royce.

A Merlin helicopter from 820 Naval Air Squadron loaded and fired flares from HMS Prince of Wales, while embarked for Exercise Steadfast Defender. Flares are one element of the Defensive Aid Suite (DAS). The flares make up one portion of the DAS system, they are specifically designed to defeat Infra-Red seeking missiles (MANPADS). The aircraft carrier is taking part in Exercise Steadfast Defender. Exercise STEADFAST DEFENDER 2024 will be the largest NATO exercise in decades. NATO forces will be exercising across multiple regions and in multiple domains (maritime, land, air, space, and cyber). The vast scale of this exercise will occur over several months and over thousands of kilometres and will involve tens-of-thousands of Allied troops, all showcasing NATO capabilities to deter adversaries and defend allied territory.
A Merlin helicopter fires flares. Photo: Stuart Dickson/UK Ministry of Defence

Maintaining ‘Mission Availability’

According to Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S), the framework agreement will sustain the Royal Navy Merlins’ critical role in anti-submarine warfare, maritime force protection, and amphibious medium-lift missions.

The force currently has two operational Merlin variants: the MK2s deployed with Daring-class destroyers, Queen Elizabeth-class carriers, and Duke-class frigates, and the MK4s, specially configured for Royal Marines applications.

“Over the years the Merlin has proved to be an outstandingly versatile asset to the armed forces and Safran Helicopter Engines expertise has contributed to that success through meticulous support for the RTM 322 engine,” a statement from DE&S said.

“Not only does this contract secure more than 30 high skilled jobs in the UK, it also delivers confidence to those who operate our Merlin Helicopters, as well as those who rely on its support, that its engine is being looked after and maintained in the best way possible”.

“This new support contract will increase the mission availability of the Merlin so it can continue hunting submarines, conducting maritime patrols, ferrying troops, and evacuating casualties.”

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