Defence Minister Guto Bebb has announced the delivery of the first of a fleet of new helicopters designed for Royal Marine aircraft carrier operations.
The Commando Merlin Mk4 has been upgraded to a faster and more powerful aircraft than its predecessor, the Merlin Mk3 standard. It now 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.
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.
The aircraft are being delivered through a £388 million contract between the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) and Leonardo Helicopters, supporting 175 skilled jobs at Leonardo in Yeovil, and a further 500 across the UK supply chain.
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. Flown from the Yeovil factory to now be homed here, this is another way defence is supporting the South West, where we spent over £5bn last year – more than any other region in the UK.”
image © Crown Copyright
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