Initial Operational Capability (IOC):
Also Known As: Commando Merlin Mk4, MCH101, Merlin HM MK1 and Merlin HM MK2
and United Kingdom
Parent System: AW101
Initial Operational Capability (IOC):
Family Members: EH101
, EH101 Cormorant
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Description: The EH101 is a long range, medium lift helicopter designed to perform a wide range of missions. The EH101 has been designed to perform naval warfare missions (ASW and ASuW), search and rescue (SAR), and military utility missions. The EH101 helicopter is powered by three engines (RTM322 or T700), has a five-blade main rotor, integrated sub-systems, single pilot full glass cockpit, and can be armed with four torpedoes or two long range anti-ship missiles. It features reduced life cycle costs, maintainability, and high reliability due to its three turboshaft engines. Merlin helicopters provide day/night, all-weather conditions operation with an maximum flight endurance of five hours.
The first EH101 helicopter entered service in 2000. It has been selected by the United Kingdom, Italy, Janan, Denmark and Canada with more than 180 aircraft ordered to date. The Royal Navy EH101 helicopters will operate from Horizon-class, type 22 and type 23 frigates, type 45 destroyers, Invincible, CVF aircraft carriers as well as various types of amphibious assault ships. Besides, a EH101 derivative for the civilian markets has also been offered.
The EH101 Merlin is an Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) helicopter. It can be armed with four torpedoes (Sting Ray or other type) or two anti-ship missiles. It features a dipping sonar, BAe System's Blue Kestrel search radar, and Kestrel ESM. In addition to the ASW and ASuW capabilities, it can perform search and rescue, airborne early warning, and marine patrol missions. Merlin HM MK1 is the Royal Navy designation for the EH101 Merlin helicopter. It replaced Sea King helicopters beginning in 1998 and achieving initial operational capability (IOC) in 2000. Italy has ordered eight ASW Merlin helicopters and 4 in the airborne early warning configuration. Royal Navy's EH101s were equipped with a new EO/IR sensor mounted on a weapon carriage pylon on the side of the helicopter provided by Lockheed-Martin from October 2004. The EO/IR surveillance sensor will give accurate, real-time information and positive identification against small, elusive targets.
The Japan Defense Agency (JDA) ordered 14 EH101s in 2003 for the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) to replace aging MH-53E and S-61 helicopters under the MCH-X program. These helicopters were produced and supported locally by Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI). Helicopters deliveries to JDA will begin in early 2006. AgustaWestland announced that the first EH101 ordered by Japan, dubbed KHI-01, completed its maiden flight on 15 February 2005. The first production helicopter powered by three RTM322 Mk250 engines was handed over to the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) March 3, 2006. Japanese EH101s are called the MCH101 and provide transportation, Airborne Mine Counter Measure (AMCM) and Antarctic support capabilities. MCH101 designation emphasizes the airborne mine counter measures role of these aircraft.
In early January 2006, the UK MoD awarded Lockheed Martin UK a £750 million modernization contract on behalf of the Royal Navy's Merlin HM MK1 aircraft. The contract was aimed at providing state-of-the-art technology to 30 Merlin MK1 helicopters with eight more on option. Its target tracking capability is expected to be 40 times greater after undergoing upgrade. Hydraulic actuators will be replaced by new ones utilizing a fly by wire system. The modernization work would begin in 2010 with the first upgraded helicopter achieving IOC by 2013. Overall, this modernization program will extend Royal Navy's Merlin aircraft service life through 2029-2030.
In early March 2006 the UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) awarded the Integrated Merlin Operational Support (IMOS) contract to AgustaWestland. IMOS contract provides logistics support for Royal Navy's EH101 Merlin HM Mk.1 and Royal Air Force Merlin HC Mk.3 helicopter fleets for a 25-year period. The initial contract was valued at £450 million covering the first five years. This initiative was called to increase Merlin availability while delivering support costs savings of approximately £1 billion through to the type out of service date planned for 2029 (Mk.1)/2030 (Mk.3). The Royal Marines took deliver of the first Commando Merlin Mk4 helicopter out of 25 on May 24, 2018
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