Royal Marines' first Merlin Mk4 flies
The first Merlin Mk 4 helicopter for the British Royal Marines Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) has completed its first flight in Yeovil, Somerset, the Royal Navy announced on 28 October.
The Merlin Mk 4 will replace the Royal Marines’ Mk 3 helicopter from late 2017. It is being upgraded by Leonardo.
The new variant is better suited to commando and maritime operations than the MK 3, with a folding main rotor head and tail to enable it to operate from Royal Navy carriers and assault ships at sea. The aircraft will also have improved avionics.
The first Mk 4 is expected to be ready for front-line operations by late 2017, with the entire fleet of 25 set to be converted by the end of 2020.
At present the two troop-carrying squadrons of CHF, based at RNAS Yeovilton – 845 and 846 NAS – operate the Mk3 and Mk3i. The Mk3i has undergone enhancements and improvements which plug the gap between Mk3 and Mk4.
Col Lenny Brown, CHF, said: ‘What a fantastic achievement for Leonardo, the Merlin project team and all those involved at CHF.
‘This is truly a leap forward in CHF’s capability to support 3 Commando Brigade at the speed and range required on the modern battlefield, whether operating embarked in Royal Navy warships or on land.’
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