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Allowing the Royal Navy to flex its airborne muscles, the versatile Merlins defend maritime forces (MK2) and empower the Royal Marines (MK4) for elevated missions.

Merlin helicopter

3D visualisation of Merlin helicopter


Royal Navy Merlin helicopter flying away from the camera

The ultimate sub-hunter

There are two types of Merlin helicopter currently in use in the Royal Navy. The MK2 features enhanced radar and sonar systems that make it a potent enemy sub hunter, but it is also used for maritime patrol and interdiction, troop ferrying, casualty evacuation, search and rescue and other contingency tasks.
Merlin helicopter flies over town in Portugal

Commando deployer

The other Merlin helicopter currently in service by the Royal Navy is the MK4, and this features several modifications for use by the Royal Marines. These include a fast roping beam that allows the rapid deployment of Special Forces from the main cabin door.
Royal Navy personnel walk around a Merlin helicopter onboard an aircraft carrier

Muscle across the fleet

Since coming into service in 2014, the Merlin MK2s have been deployed from a number of platforms across the Royal Navy, including the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers, the Daring Class destroyers, the Duke Class frigates and the RFA vessels.

About the crew

Each Merlin helicopter has a crew of four, two observers – nicknamed ‘baggers’ - who are the mission and tactical specialists, and two pilots. The baggers provide airborne surveillance and control (ASaC) for other aircraft in the carrier’s strike group, such as the F-35s.

Highly capable & technologically advanced

Royal Navy Merlin helicopter flies in for landing

Crowsnest technology

Providing surveillance and intelligence for the entire Royal Navy fleet

Crowsnest provides a vital surveillance capability to support the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth Class carriers. It uses a high power radar to provide long-range air, maritime and land-tracking capabilities to ensure the early detection of threats.

The distinctive-looking ‘bag’ containing the radar is attached to the fuselage by an arm and is lowered to a vertical position after take-off.

Two Merlin helicopters get loaded up on the deck of an aircraft carrier

Protecting the aircraft

How the Navy preserves the integrity of its aircraft in extreme conditions

The Royal Navy uses protective covers to shield Merlin helicopters in extreme environments. Known as ‘Extreme Cold Weather covers’, or ‘onesies’, these sheets are spread over the critically important parts of the helicopters to guard them against harsh arctic, jungle or desert weather conditions.

The covers can be placed over the nose, cockpit, cabin, engine and rotor blades in under an hour to protect the helicopters from temperatures as low as -60 degrees Celsius or as high as 80 degrees Celsius.

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