The British Royal Navy’s Duke-class Type 23 frigate HMS Westminster has welcomed its first helicopter in two years, the Merlin Mk2.
Merlin Mk2 belongs to the 829 Naval Air Squadron, and made its first 50-mile flight from on board the frigate. The helicopter departed from the Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, England to conduct basic landing and take-off drills.
HMS Westminster operated as the Royal Navy’s premier submarine-hunter before retiring for its refit programme in 2015.
The 14t helicopter is capable of carrying torpedoes or depth charges, as well as sonar on a long wire and advanced touch-screen computers in order to monitor the occurrences beneath the waves.
HMS Westminster weapon engineer officer lieutenant commander Matthew Cox said: “The combination of Westminster's sophisticated sonar and the range and agility of the Merlin forms a comprehensive submarine-hunting package.”
The frigate’s refurbished main 4.5in gun shelled out 88lb shells one after the other from the barrel at more than twice the speed of sound.
HMS Westminster was discharging 23 rounds every minute, with its main guns operating at a maximum rate of one round every two and a half seconds.
The refit was conducted by BAE Systems, and included deployment of improved systems and sensors, and replacement of the traditional Seawolf missile system with the longer-range Sea Ceptor, as well as the installation of a redeveloped main 4.5in gun.
Upgrades were carried out to prepare the vessel for the last ten years of its life. The frigate is expected to be delivered to the navy by the middle of the year.
Image: HMS Westminster welcomes its first Merlin Mk2 helicopter in two years. Photo: courtesy of Royal Navy.