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Merlin helicopters

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marktigger
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Merlin helicopters

Postby marktigger » 01 May 2015, 10:30

a thread for all merlin related things

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SKB
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Re: Merlin Helicopter (RN & RAF)

Postby SKB » 02 May 2015, 16:58

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^RN Merlin

The AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin is a medium-lift helicopter used in both military and civil applications. It was developed by joint venture between Westland Helicopters in the UK and Agusta in Italy in response to national requirements for a modern naval utility helicopter. Several operators, including the armed forces of Britain, Denmark and Portugal, use the name Merlin for their AW101 aircraft. It is manufactured at factories in Yeovil, England and Vergiate, Italy; licensed assembly work has also taken place in Japan and the United States.

Prior to 2007, the aircraft had been marketed under the designation EH101. The original designation was EHI 01 but a transcription error of a handwritten note changed this to EH101 and the designation stuck. In 2000, Westland Helicopters and Agusta merged to form AgustaWestland, leading to the type's redesignation as AW101. The AW101 first flew in 1987, and entered into service in 1999. Since the AW101's introduction it has replaced several older helicopter types such as the Sikorsky S-61, performing roles such as medium-sized transport, anti-submarine warfare, and ship-based utility operations.

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) operates a variant of the AW101, designated CH-149 Cormorant, in the air-sea rescue role. Another variant, designated VH-71 Kestrel, was developed to serve in the US presidential transport fleet, however the program was cancelled. Civil operators also use AW101s in roles such as passenger and VIP transportation. The type has been deployed to active combat theatres, such as in support of coalition forces during the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan.

Royal Navy
The RN's final order was for 44 ASW aircraft, originally designated Merlin HAS.1 but soon changed to Merlin HM1. The first fully operational Merlin was delivered on 17 May 1997, entering service on 2 June 2000. All aircraft were delivered by the end of 2002, and are operated by four Fleet Air Arm squadrons: 814 NAS, 820 NAS, 824 NAS and 829 NAS, all based at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall. 700 NAS was the Merlin Operational Evaluation Unit from 2000 to 2008. In March 2004, Navy Merlins were temporarily grounded following an incident at RNAS Culdrose in which a tail rotor failed due to a manufacturing defect. An improved tail rotor was designed and adopted on most AW101s; according to AgustaWestland the redesigned rotor also significantly reduced associated maintenance.

In 1995, it was announced the Navy's Westland Lynx helicopters would be retired in favour of an all-Merlin fleet. However, the subsequent 2010 SDSR stated the future naval helicopters to be the Merlin and the Wildcat, a derivative of the Lynx. Royal Navy Merlins have seen action in the Caribbean, on counter-narcotics and hurricane support duties, as well as maritime security duties in the Persian Gulf. Merlins have also seen active duty in Iraq, providing support to British and coalition forces based in the region.

The Merlin HM1 has been cleared to operate from the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, Type 23 frigates and several Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessels including the Fort Victoria-class class; it is also to equip the Type 45 destroyer. 30 aircraft are being upgraded to Merlin HM2 standard under the £750m Merlin Capability Sustainment Programme which runs to 2015. The HM2 has a new mission system, digital cockpit, electro-optical camera and multi-static processing for the sonar system. The HM2 performed its first ship-borne test flight in September 2012 and achieved IOC on 30 June 2014, after nine HM2 had flown 480 hours from Illustrious during Exercise Deep Blue earlier that month. It was also reported that some of the eight airframes not scheduled to be upgraded for financial reasons may be updated.

Five HM2s are in maintenance at any one time, leaving 25 available at readiness, of which 14 will be assigned to the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier. In addition to its anti-submarine role, the HM2 will be able to carry an airborne early warning (AEW) pod under procurement through the Crowsnest programme to replace the Sea King ASaC7. In September 2011, Thales UK proposed re-using Sea King ASaC7 equipment, such as the Searchwater 2000, on the Merlin; Lockheed Martin has proposed developing a new multi-functional sensor for either the AW101 or other aircraft. Lockheed originally planned to use a derivative of the F-35's APG-81 radar but is now believed to be using an Elta system; both it and the Thales system will begin flight trials in the summer of 2014 with Main Gate in 2016. Ten pods are planned with IOC in 2019. On 22 May 2015, The MOD and Lockheed Martin UK, as the prime contractor for Crowsnest, selected Thales as the chosen bidder to provide the radar and mission system at the heart of the Crowsnest capability.

On 15 December 2009, plans were announced to transfer RAF Merlin HC3s and HC3As to the Commando Helicopter Force to replace retiring Sea King HC4 helicopters. The Sea King is to retire in 2016, after which the Navy will operate a combination of the Wildcat and Merlin. 846 NAS reformed with ex-RAF Merlin HC3s on 1 October 2014. 845 NAS will follow in 2017, operating the fully navalised Merlin HC4.

Image
^ RAF Merlin HC3A

Royal Air Force
The RAF ordered 22 Merlin HC3 for transport missions, the first of which entered service in January 2001 with No. 28 Squadron RAF based at RAF Benson. The type is equipped with extended-range fuel tanks and is capable of air-to-air refuelling. The Merlin is frequently utilised for troop transport duties and for the transport of bulky objects, either internally or underslung, including vehicles and artillery. The Merlin Depth Maintenance Facility at RNAS Culdrose performed most tasks upon the Merlin HC3.

The Merlin's first operational deployment was to the Balkans region in 2003. RAF Merlins were first deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Telic in 2004, supporting coalition forces and were operated as the main medevac asset in southern Iraq; both Flight Lieutenant Kev Harris and Flight Lieutenant Michelle Goodman were awarded the DFC during this period. Merlins routinely operated around Basra until Britain's withdrawal in June 2009.

In 2002, Westland made an unsuccessful unsolicited offer to the British Ministry of Defence, proposing an enhanced Merlin variant intended to satisfy the demand for additional lift capacity. An alternative measure was the acquisition of six AW101s from Denmark in 2007; designated Merlin HC3A, these were assigned to the RAF, allowing Merlins to be deployed in Afghanistan. The HC3A is used for training and not for front-line operations due to various configuration differences. In December 2007, a second Merlin squadron, No. 78 Squadron was formed at Benson.

In 2009, five Merlin Mk3s were operating in Afghanistan, transporting troops and supplies. The deployment to Afghanistan was criticized as the aircraft reportedly lacked protective Kevlar armour. By July 2010, the Merlin fleet was fully fitted with ballistic armour. The deployment of Merlins to Afghanistan allowed the detachment of Sea Kings to be withdrawn from the region in October 2011. As part of the UK draw-down in Afghanistan Merlins were withdrawn from theatre in June 2013.

In 2012, RAF Merlins began the transition process over the Royal Navy's Commando Helicopter Force, due to be finalised by 2016 after modifications for extended maritime operations. Royal Navy personnel worked alongside the Royal Air Force at RAF Benson to build experience before the fleet is handed over to the Commando Helicopter Force. A £454m Merlin Life Sustainment Programme will see 25 HC3/HC3A airframes fitted with the cockpit electronics of the HM2, folding tails and main rotor heads, strengthened landing gear, deck lashing mounting points, obsolescence updates, fast-roping points and a common emergency egress system. The first HC4 will begin flight trials in September 2017 with IOC in early 2018; an interim folding main rotor head will be fitted to some HC3 for shipborne operations prior to the HC4 upgrade.

Role: Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and medium-lift transport / Utility helicopter
Manufacturer: AgustaWestland
First flight: 9 October 1987
Introduction: 1999
Status: In service
Primary users:
Royal Navy
Royal Air Force
Italian Navy
Royal Danish Air Force
Produced: 1990s-present
Unit cost:
US$21 million (2009)
Variants: AgustaWestland CH-149 Cormorant
Lockheed Martin VH-71 Kestrel


marktigger
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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby marktigger » 03 May 2015, 15:51

was interesting that the HM2 upgrade didn't add in anti surface vessel capability.

we are approaching gateways for the crowsnest system which I understand will be a plug in and play type system on any HM2 aircraft.

The HC4a upgrade program will be interesting to see. The cockpit standardisation shouldn't have any problems as the system is the same as the HM2. But the change of rotor head and the making it more maritime friendly in how much weight can be added vs loss of capability.

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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby Happyslapper » 05 May 2015, 11:12

Overflown 10 mins ago by a Mk3, resplendant in RN markings. Couldn't have been more than a couple of hundred feet, heading for Odiham.

Here's an article about the return of 847 to Yeovilton a few days back:
https://navynews.co.uk/archive/news/item/12695
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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby jonas » 12 May 2015, 19:16

Just seen a retweet on Gabriele's twitter page, that the 'Crowsnest' contract has been awarded but no announcement has yet been made. Anyone have any info on this.

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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby Gabriele » 12 May 2015, 21:12

jonas wrote:Just seen a retweet on Gabriele's twitter page, that the 'Crowsnest' contract has been awarded but no announcement has yet been made. Anyone have any info on this.


I don't know anything more than what i retweeted. But a decision was expected for this month all along, and even before the elections the reports said that the Purdah would not stop the programme's progress. So, it is possible that there has been / there is going to imminently be a formal selection.
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The Other Chris
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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby The Other Chris » 22 May 2015, 15:38


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cockneyjock1974
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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby cockneyjock1974 » 22 May 2015, 15:47

Is the Thales solution AESA or still based on the Pulse Doppler system? Any takers?

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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby -Eddie- » 22 May 2015, 15:51

cockneyjock1974 wrote:Is the Thales solution AESA or still based on the Pulse Doppler system? Any takers?

Still the pulse doppler using the Cerberus system.

MoD wrote:The Thales solution is an updated, improved and repackaged role-fit version of the Cerberus tactical sensor suite currently in service on the Sea King Mk7 helicopter.

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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby cockneyjock1974 » 22 May 2015, 15:56

Cheers Eddie.

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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby bobp » 22 May 2015, 18:20

I have extracted the following text from Janes website,


Thales UK has won out against Lockheed Martin UK Integrated Systems in the race to supply the radar and mission system for the UK Royal Navy's (RN's) Crowsnest airborne surveillance and control (ASaC) capability.

Announcing the downselection on 22 May, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Thales would now work with Lockheed Martin UK - in its role as prime contractor for Crowsnest - and AgustaWestland to further mature the solution through to a Main Gate investment decision planned for 2016.

Designed to replace the capability currently provided by the Sea King ASaC.7 (SKASaC), which retires in 2018, the Crowsnest programme is predicated on the provision of a roll-on/roll-off mission fit for RN Merlin helicopters recently upgraded to HM.2 standard under the Merlin Capability Sustainment Programme (MCSP). Current planning assumes the acquisition of 10 Crowsnest kits, with all 30 Merlin HM.2 helicopters to receive 'fit-to-receive' modifications to enable the rapid installation of the Crowsnest mission package.

Lockheed Martin UK, as prime contractor for the MCSP programme, in 2013 received a GBP27 million (USD42 million) Assessment Phase 3 contract from the MoD under which it has managed the competition between Thales UK and a separate 'firewalled' Lockheed Martin UK team for the design, development and demonstration of the Crowsnest radar and mission system. Both competitors matured their respective solutions under 15-month technology demonstration contracts awarded in late 2013; these activities included building hardware, flight testing, and demonstrating man-in-the-loop performance in a synthetic environment.

The rival proposals were submitted at the end of January this year: Thales bid a repackaged and upgraded version of the Cerberus mission system and Searchwater 2000 radar currently fitted to the RN's SKASaC fleet; Lockheed Martin proposed to introduce a pod-mounted IAI Elta EL/M-2052 active electronically scanned array radar fit while at the same time leveraging the new mission system architecture introduced under the MCSP.

No detailed rationale for the downselection decision has been made public. A Lockheed Martin UK spokesperson told IHS Jane's , "Both proposals were evaluated against the selection criteria and Thales scored more points. Lockheed Martin UK's decision to choose Thales as the preferred bidder was approved by the MoD."

In a statement, Thales said, "The new capability will enter operational service in 2018 when the last of the SKASaC helicopters are retired.

"Thales' winning solution will maximise the re-use of the MoD's existing investment in equipment, training and expertise by upgrading, updating and adapting a battle proven capability, ahead of operational timescales. Improvements to the Royal Navy's new system include enhanced performance and data processing, as well as the addition of new modes to the operationally proven, high-powered multimission radar," the company stated.

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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby Ianmb17 » 22 May 2015, 21:03

Still the Baggers or is dome solid

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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby Ron5 » 23 May 2015, 19:00

I suspect only one box on the check list: "cheapest".

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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby bobp » 23 May 2015, 19:37

Cheapest probably, but at least they are buying something that works. I suspect the Lockheed product wasn't up to scratch, it appears it failed some of the tests, whether the test was price time will tell.

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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby rec » 23 May 2015, 21:36

In one sense, this is a very logical decision and low risk, however the high risk part is that there are to few Merlin's, at the very least those 8 HM1s need to be brought into service and upgraded into HM2

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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby RobWilliams » 23 May 2015, 21:50

Why do those 8 need to be upgraded to HM2 and included in the fleet?

The fleet of 30 will sustain 25 in the forward fleet, with 14 of those earmarked for the carrier (which is plenty for AEW/ASW). The remaining 11 have to cover other deployments like Type 23 when in reality there's usually never more than half a dozen deployed at any one time.

I'm not saying that i'd like to have those extra 8, I sure would. But is there such a justifiable need that other programs be reduced in funding for it?

Not that it matters in the grand scheme because those 8 in effect no longer exist according to the MOD.

Just probing around to generate discussion. If the argument is to save airframe hours then you could argue every aircraft in inventory needs more numbers, but we've got to be pragmatic.

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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby Old RN » 23 May 2015, 22:20

One key question surely is whether we ever expect to have both CVFs at sea at once? Falklands 2.0?

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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby Little J » 23 May 2015, 22:40

Good to see the project pushing forwards, shame there couldn't be a dedicated force - the bag install on the commando did look quite good.
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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby RobWilliams » 23 May 2015, 22:44

Old RN wrote:One key question surely is whether we ever expect to have both CVFs at sea at once? Falklands 2.0?


Only in the case of a national emergency could that be considered. Anything less and then that'd be a no. But that's just my opinion.

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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby marktigger » 23 May 2015, 22:51

how many ex RAF ones are being maritimised?

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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby shark bait » 24 May 2015, 00:38

marktigger wrote:how many ex RAF ones are being maritimised?

25, but I believe they would take even more work to use them for AEW. Aren't they just transporters?

On the subject of upgrading the other 8, I think it should be one of the priorities. Surely it cant cost massive amounts and it will be a very useful capability, especially if we need to renew the focus on sub hunting. Looking at the past costs you could estimate 100-150 million which seems like a no brainier to me.

We're not saving money its wasting it by making them disappear. Is a typhoon tranche 1 balls up all over again.
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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby Tony Williams » 24 May 2015, 11:26

RobWilliams wrote:
Old RN wrote:One key question surely is whether we ever expect to have both CVFs at sea at once? Falklands 2.0?


Only in the case of a national emergency could that be considered. Anything less and then that'd be a no. But that's just my opinion.


I assume that the manning of the carriers would be provided on the basis that only one would be in service at any one time. It could be difficult (to put it mildly) to find an entire extra crew, trained and experienced in operating the carrier, at short notice. And that's assuming the spare carrier isn't in the middle of a major overhaul.

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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby marktigger » 24 May 2015, 11:43

with merlin HM 1/2 they need to add air to surface missile capability to it to increase the flexibility of the platform.

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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby shark bait » 24 May 2015, 13:42

marktigger wrote:with merlin HM 1/2 they need to add air to surface missile capability to it to increase the flexibility of the platform.


That would make good sense, in such a case the merlin would preform anti-submarine, early early warning and anti surface roles making it a true naval work horse!
We've spent lots developing new weapons for the wildcat, it would be nice to see those make an appearance on other platforms.
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RobWilliams
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Re: Merlin helicopters

Postby RobWilliams » 24 May 2015, 13:57

Tony Williams wrote:I assume that the manning of the carriers would be provided on the basis that only one would be in service at any one time. It could be difficult (to put it mildly) to find an entire extra crew, trained and experienced in operating the carrier, at short notice. And that's assuming the spare carrier isn't in the middle of a major overhaul.


Agreed, it's why I tossed in the dramatic wording.

Could it be done? Maybe, I don't know for sure. But it would be extremely difficult to do, extremely expensive and only considered in cases of extreme need.


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