WASHINGTON, The U.K. Royal Navy’s upgraded Merlin Mk2 anti-submarine warfare patrol helicopter will deploy for anti-piracy and anti-terrorism operations in the winter.
The helicopter entered service in the Royal Navy in 2014, later declared fully operational in the summer of 2015 after a series of tests and trials in European waters. The trials included large-scale anti-submarine exercises in the Atlantic Ocean. The Mk2 version replaces the Royal Navy’s earlier Mk1, with improvements including a fully integrated electro-optic and infrared camera.
“The new Merlin offers so many more tactical options in a very demanding operating area that is hugely significant to the UK’s national interests,” Royal Navy commander Rich Hutchings said in a statement.
The helicopter can be piloted by one or two pilots, and crewed by three Royal Navy personnel. The craft is armed with a stingray torpedo, heavy machine guns, and depth charges, and has a lift capacity of three to eight tons.
During combat operations, the Merlin Mk2 is designed to track targets and transmit data to nearby ships, enhancing a fleet’s anti-submarine capabilities. Other improvements from the earlier Merlin Mk1 include new touch-screen technology and an enhanced radar system.
The Merlin Mk2 helicopter will support patrol missions for the Royal Navy’s HMS St. Albans in the second half of 2016.
By Ryan Maass