The Merlin helicopter fleet has clocked up 200,000 flying hours, say the Royal Navy.
“It’s a battlefield helicopter pilot’s dream to be able to fly such an awesome and cutting edge machine,” said Lieutenant Tom Lennon of 845 Naval Air Squadron.
“Commando Merlin is a game-changer for the Commando Helicopter Force. As front-line aircrew, our ability to operate and interact with the aircraft has vastly increased thanks to major cockpit and avionic upgrades. This epic aircraft’s immense capability means we can not only take the fight directly to the enemy, but provide a life-saving combat rescue capability in his own back yard.”
According to a news release:
“In four different versions – chiefly split between maritime patrol/submarine hunter and battlefield support – the Merlin fleet has flown the equivalent of 1,190 weeks or just shy of 23 years in the hands of the Fleet Air Arm and RAF.
The Fleet Air Arm got its hands on the first version of the helicopter in 1997, brought it into the service three years later and have been operating it ever since from frigates, carriers and assault ships, using the Merlin for everything from moving people and kit around and rescue missions to the painstaking task of submarine hunting – usually hand-in-hand with a Type 23 frigate.
And since 2014, naval air and ground crew have been turning the RAF’s battlefield Merlins into Commando Helicopter Force Merlins, replacing the trusty Sea King as the wings of the Royal Marines.”