The British Royal Navy celebrated the formation of its first AgustaWestland AW101 HM Mk2 Squadron yesterday at a ceremony held at the home of the Fleet Air Arm, Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Culdrose, in Cornwall, U.K.
The first five Merlin Mk2 helicopters have been upgraded from Merlin Mk1s as part of the Lockheed Martin led Merlin Capability Sustainment Program (MCSP). In total, 30 Merlin Mk1s will be upgraded to Mk2 standard with the first helicopters ready for deployment next summer. The work is being done at AgustaWestland’s Yeovil facility and should be completed by the end of 2015.
The contract, worth £750 million ($1,152 million), includes Lockheed Martin, AgustaWestland, Selex Sensors & Airborne Systems, Thales Under Water Systems, CAE, Qinetiq and others. It is specifically aimed at upgrading the cockpit avionics and mission system, with time-saving touch screen displays and a much wider ability to distribute data to other aircraft and ships. The cockpit is now night vision goggle compatible.
Those attending the event included Commodore Andy Lison RN, responsible for the Merlin, Lynx and Sea King teams for the MOD’s Defense, Equipment and Support Organization; Commander Ben Franklin RN, the Commanding Officer of The Merlin Helicopter Force, Bob Kramer, VP and Group General Manager, Lockheed Martin UK Integrated Systems, and Ray Edwards, Managing Director, AgustaWestland.
The lead unit is 824 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), and will be followed by 829 NAS, 814 NAS and 820 NAS.
(See the September issue of Rotor & Wing for the full story)