Royal Navy's New "Green" Merlin Mk3 Helicopter Started Trials at Sea with RFA Lyme Bay LSD

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Naval Forces News - UK
 
 
 
Royal Navy's New "Green" Merlin Mk3 Helicopter Started Trials at Sea with RFA Lyme Bay LSD
 
A "Green" Merlin Mk3 which was recently transferred from the Royal Air Force to the Royal Navy “Junglie” Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) started trials at sea with Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Lyme Bay landing ship dock (LSD).
     
A Merlin Mk3 helicopter which was recently transfered from the RAF to the RN is seen operating at sea for the first time during trials on board RFA Lyme Bay LSD. Picture: Royal Navy
A Merlin Mk3 helicopter which was recently transfered from the RAF to the RN is seen operating at sea for the first time during trials on board RFA Lyme Bay LSD. Picture: Royal Navy
     
A trials aircraft, crewed by a team from Rotary Wing Test and Evaluation Squadron (RWTES) and QinetiQ engineers, based at MOD Boscombe Down in Wiltshire have been putting the new Junglie helicopter through its paces.

Working on board RFA Lyme Bay they have been checking that the safety clearances, already in place for the Mk2 Merlin are similarly valid for the Mk3, and it is safe to operate at sea.

Lieutenant Commander Nigel Gates of Joint Helicopter Command Operational Evaluation Unit (JHC- OEU) is one of the Royal Navy pilots conducting the trials.

“It’s the first time that the Mk 3’s operated at Sea,” said Nigel. “At the end of the day it is a Merlin so we know most of its characteristics already and roughly what to expect. In the back of the aircraft we have a team of QinetiQ engineers whose job it is to analysis all the data we collect, as we fly the Merlin on and off Lyme Bay’s deck. We’re checking that it can operate safely in all wind conditions and if necessary recommend changes to the clearances.”
     
A "green" Merlin Mk3 (foreground) and a "grey" Merlin Mk2 (background). The AgustaWestland Merlin Mk2 is the anti-submarine warfare and maritime surveillance helicopter of the Royal Navy. The Mk3 variant was transfered from the Royal Air Force to the Royal Navy to take on the demanding Commando Role (from ship to shore operations). The current Merlin Mk3 fleet will undergo an upgrade package through an interim model. It will then move towards the advanced Merlin Mk4.
A "green" Merlin Mk3 (foreground) and a "grey" Merlin Mk2 (background). The AgustaWestland Merlin Mk2 is the anti-submarine warfare and maritime surveillance helicopter of the Royal Navy. The Mk3 variant was transfered from the Royal Air Force to the Royal Navy to take on the demanding Commando Role (from ship to shore operations). The current Merlin Mk3 fleet will undergo an upgrade package through an interim model. It will then move towards the advanced Merlin Mk4.
Picture: Royal Navy
     
The team has been working out of RNAS Culdrose throughout the trial period, changing the aircraft’s weight and landing position across the deck.

These results will go a long way to determine how Green Navy Merlins will be used in the future with CHF and in particular flying from the deck of the HMS Queen Elizabeth class carriers.

Nigel continues, “So far we’ve found that the Mk 3 has a little bit more power available, which helps with the worst wind conditions. We’ve also done trials with Night Vision Goggles (NVG) and in flight refuelling with the aircraft, known as HIFR. The Data will help us with future Mk3 operations, but more importantly this is preparing the way for the Mk4 Merlin.

"This will be what emerges from the Agusta Westland conversion program for the Mk3 to make it optimised for ship operations. The Mk4 will have a folding rotor head and tail section as well, like the current Anti-submarine Grey Merlin Mk2’s.”

Strengthened steel tie down points and heavier wheels have also been added, giving the current Merlin Mk3 an all up weight (AUW) of around 14.6 tonnes. The Mk 4 will have a bigger AUW of around 15.6 tonnes.

Nigel comes from a Junglie background, although as a test pilot he has been involved with the Merlin Mk2 programme as well, he sees a lot of similarity, “its good working with new aircraft and a very interesting time to be involved”.
 

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