The UK Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) has announced the successful completion of upgrade work on the Royal Navy’s (RN) Merlin helicopter fleet.

The new upgrades have further extended the life of the Merlin fleet until 2030.

This work was carried out as part of the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Merlin Life Sustainment Programme (MLSP).

Negotiated by the MoD’s procurement arm DE&S, the MLSP has been delivered via a single source contract with Leonardo Helicopters.

The upliftment work was performed on the RN’s 19 Mk3 and six Mk3a aircraft. All 25 helicopters have now been upgraded to Mk4/4a standard.

The helicopters can now embark on any naval vessel, including the RN’s Type 45 or Daring-class destroyers, amphibious assault ships, Type 23 or Duke-class ships, and other aircraft carriers.

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By GlobalData

Following the effort, the new helicopters now feature an enhanced defensive aid suite, along with a separate system to locate and warn the forces against the hostile laser guided weapons.

Other major upgrades include the installation of a new folding main rotor head and tail that will allow two helicopters to fit on the aircraft lift of the carrier vessels.

The latest work will further enhance the capability of the country’s Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) to deliver air support for various British forces, including 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines.

Furthermore, Leonardo, under MLSP, has also delivered an associated synthetic trainer with two new pilot simulators, a rear crew training device and a procedures trainer, which is co-located at RNAS Yeovilton with CHF.

Leonardo Helicopters UK managing director Adam Clarke said: “The collective efforts of all stakeholders will provide CHF with a high-end Merlin helicopter, with new cockpit avionics, and limited ship optimisation, supplemented by state-of-the-art synthetic training equipment, to support its missions.”