Merlin Mk2 puts to sea for the first time
The Royal Navy's new upgraded Merlin Mk2 anti-submarine warfare helicopter has conducted its first shipborne operations, it has been revealed.
Members of the Merlin Capability Sustainment Programme (MCSP) Combined Test Team were based onboard HMS Illustrious at the beginning of September to conduct flight trials with Merlin Mk2 test aircraft ZH826.
According to details released by Lockheed Martin (LM) on 27 September, the tests were aimed at assessing the performance of the new navigational equipment, including the new Embedded GPS and Inertial Navigation System (EGI) while at sea - an environment where the equipment had not been tested before.
The first deck landing on Illustrious was made on 3 September and a series of 10 sorties were made over the next two weeks as the ship sailed between Plymouth and the edge of the Atlantic.
According to LM, Each of the sorties were flown with a specific but varied test profile. 'The successful flight sorties recorded the data and observations during the flight, including the navigation system during a ‘GPS-denied state’ while operating from a moving base – one of the most strenuous, but not unlikely, conditions the navigational system may encounter.'
The test also allowed Royal Navy crews to plan out real operational missions on the Lockheed Martin-made Ground Preparation Facility mission planning system.
The release adds: 'The crews also used the Avionics and Tactical Mission Systems to manage critical parts of the mission such as the ship’s position and used the built-in approach aids to guide the aircraft back safely to the ship.'
Under the £850 million MCSP programme, 30 of the Fleet Air Arm's 38-strong fleet of Merlin Mk1s are being upgraded to the Mk2 standard. The first aircraft is expected to enter service during 2013 and full operational capability due in 2014.
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