AgustaWestland has successfully completed qualification flight testing of new-generation BERP 4 main-rotor blades on the AW101. The new technology blades are to enter operational service early this year on the U.K.’s Royal Air Force fleet of AW101 Merlin Mk3As.
BERP stands for British Experimental Rotor-blade Program. The BERP 4 program started in 2000 with a technology selection and integration phase, which led to the design and manufacturing phase in 2002.
The blades first flew in September 2006, AgustaWestland said, and have now completed a 13-month flight test program. During the tests, the AW101 was flown up to 198 kt and altitudes of 13,000 ft. Aircraft fitted with BERP 4 blades have also been flown at weights up to 36,300 lb (16,500 kg), 4,180 lb (1,900 kg) over the normal Merlin gross weight and 1,980 lb (900 kg) over the current AW101 max gross weight.
AgustaWestland has now optimized the BERP 4 main-rotor blades for production and manufactured them within six months of a contract award from the U.K. Defence Ministry to support an "urgent operational requirement" for increased hot- and high-lift capability on the Mk3As. They can also be directly retrofitted to other AW101 variants as a replacement for existing blades.