As part of Britain’s fiscal rebalancing, The Royal Navy is set to inherent the RAF’s Merlin HC3/3A medium-heavy battlefield helicopter fleet, while simultaneously upgrading its existing set of Merlin HM Mk1s. The entire effort approaches $3 billion for a final total of 55 refurbished helicopters, and these refurbishments will be carried out as part of the AW101 fleet’s long-term maintenance plan.
The navy’s existing fleet is being progressively upgraded and returned to service, adding a range of technological improvements to the helicopter’s avionics, control systems, sensors, and radar. The Royal Navy received 44 EH101 Merlin HM1s between 1998-2002 for training, surface attack and anti-submarine warfare duties, and has since lost 2 in accidents. The remaining 42 helicopters are now expected to remain in service until 2029, though only 30-38 will be upgraded. Another 28 EH101 Merlin HC3/ HC3A medium support helicopters currently serve with the UK Royal Air Force, and they will join the Navy to succeed the Sea King Mk.4 Commandos as the Royal Marines’ battlefield helicopters.