The first of the Royal Marines’ upgraded Mk4 Merlin helicopters recently visited its future home at Yeovilton air base for refueling.
The second-generation battlefield Merlin, factory model MLSP 1, tail number ZJ122, made the debut as the air station prepared for its annual air day on July 8.
The helicopter was originally a khaki green Merlin Mk3 modified by Leonardo (previously Agusta-Westland) in Yeovil for operations at sea.
Modifications include a folding tail, folding rotor head, floatation devices, fast-roping points, enhanced radio and comms equipment and an improved undercarriage (plus lashing points).
The Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) acquired two squadrons of battlefield Merlins from the RAF to replace their veteran Sea Kings.
Faster and more powerful than their predecessors and equipped with a ramp to load/offload 16 commandos in full battle rig, they were almost exclusively designed for operating over land.
It’s the ability to fold the tail section – it’s been completely rebuilt for the Mk4 – and the rotor heads which assist flying from Royal Navy carriers in particular.
The first of 25 Mk4s will be handed over to CHF in January, with transition to the new machine completed by the end of 2020.