The Navy's new Merlin Mk2 helicopters deploy en masse for the first time in 2014. Photo courtesy of the Royal Navy
The U.K. Royal Navy’s fleet of Sikorsky Sea King Mk7s based at Royal Navy Air Station (RNAS) Culdrose is expected to retire in October 2018. Thanks in part to a more than $285 million cash injection, they are to be replaced by Leonardo Merlin Mk2s. This should also add job sustainment for Leonardo facilities in Havant, Crawley and Yeovil.
It has been reported that Lockheed Martin is set to oversee the Merlin conversion; Thales is to provide the radar, sensors, computers and consoles; and Leonardo will adapt the airframes. It is planned that the new Merlin Mk2s will have a radar dome on the side, allowing easy transition between anti-submarine and airborne surveillance configurations.
The Leonardo Merlin Mk2 entered service with the Fleet Air Arm in 2014, replacing the original Merlin Mk1 naval version from the 1990s. It can seat up to two pilots and three crew members, although reports have said it will follow suit with the Sikorsky Sea Kings and require one pilot and two observers. Aircrews could being training in the summer of 2019, instructed by 824 NAS at Culdrose.