Seven upgraded AW101 Merlin HC.4/4A tactical utility helicopters have been delivered to the Royal Navy by AgustaWestland. The aircraft, all ex-RAF machines, were upgraded to the new standard at AugustaWestland’s Yeovil facility in Somerset. The upgrade concerned primarily with modifying the aircraft to be able to operate more effectively at sea as the type begins phasing out the venerable but increasingly ageing Westland Commando (troop transport version of the Sea King).
- A folding main rotor head for easier stowage aboard the Royal Navy’s ships and carriers.
- Naval lashing rings to tether the aircraft to the deck.
- A revised twin-wheel main undercarriage more suited to ship operations.
- Fast-roping capability for rapid insertion of Royal Marines.
- Communications upgrades.
AgustaWestland announced that another six aircraft will be delivered to this standard in the new year. A total of 25 aircraft are to undergo the conversion by 2020 at a cost of £330 million.