The UK Royal Navy’s anti-submarine warfare helicopter, the Merlin Mk2, has achieved full operating capability (FOC), strengthening the navy’s operational helicopter fleet.
The navy has already received 24 out of a total of 30 upgraded Merlin helicopters from Lockheed Martin and AgustaWestland.
Built as part of an £800m programme to modernise the existing aircraft fleet, Merlins feature latest cockpits that provide improved night-vision capability for pilots and a modernised combat system with touch screen display.
In addition, it also received improvements in anti-submarine / surface warfare combat capabilities, including radar upgrade.
UK Defence Minister Philip Dunne said: "The considerable investment the UK Government has made in these next-generation Merlin helicopters will ensure that we continue to deliver a flexible capability that meets the needs of our Armed Forces.
"This programme forms part of this government’s commitment to invest £11bn in our helicopter fleet over the next ten years as part of our £160bn equipment plan to provide our people with the very best equipment and support."
With the new technologies, Merlin Mk2 helicopters will have an improved capability to detect and track targets, and to share data with other aircraft and ships while airborne.
The new helicopters will be suitable for counter-piracy and casualty evacuation duties.
The UK Navy has already deployed the helicopters in support of the country’s commitment in Sierra Leone to tackle the spread of Ebola and the migrant rescue mission in the Mediterranean Sea.
According to the Royal Navy, the Merlin Mk2 helicopters are expected to be deployed on the navy’s next-generation Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, as well as frigates, destroyers and support ships.
The Royal Navy commissioned the Merlin Mk2 aircraft in July this year.
The helicopters joined with HMS Illustrious and participated in Exercise Deep Blue, demonstrating anti-submarine warfare, maritime patrol and casualty evacuation capabilities.
Image: The upgraded Merlin Mk2s have undergone improvements to their anti-submarine/surface warfare combat capabilities. Photo: courtesy of Crown copyright.