Merlin was ordered in the early 1990s in a contract worth
£1.5 billion and the first of 44 production aircraft appeared in 1996
and Merlin was accepted into service in 1999.
The Royal Navy currently operates 21 x aircraft (with four in reserve)
in the anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare role in 4 x Squadrons
(814, 820, 824 and 829 Sqns). All are based at RNAS Culdrose. When
embarked the aircraft can operate from almost any capable flight deck.
The aircraft has a state-of-the-art mission system, which processes data
from an extensive array of on-board sensors, giving Merlin an
independent capability to search for, locate and attack submarine
targets. It is this autonomous capability which makes Merlin almost
unique among Anti Submarine Warfare helicopters.
Merlin’s operational debut came during operations in the Northern Gulf
and Southern Iraq during 2003. The planned out of service date for the
Merlin Mk 1 is 2029.
A 2010 contract confirmed the award of a
£1.1 billion contract for an upgrade under the Merlin Sustainment
Programme (MCSP). The MCSP is for technological enhancements to 30
aircraft with an option for a further eight. All upgraded Merlins should
be returned to service by the end of 2013.
Another 20 x Merlin Mk 3 medium support helicopters will be transferred
from the RAF to the Commando Helicopter Force. This transfer should be
complete by the end of 2015.
Merlin HM Mk1
||GEC-Marconi Blue Kestrel
Thomson Marconi Flash AQS 960 dipping sonar
sonobuoy acoustic processor AQS-903 Racal Orange Reaper ESM
||ASW 4 x Stingray
torpedoes or Mk 11 Mod 3 depth bombs plus anti-ship missiles