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The 2006 RAF Merlin HC Mk3

Team Merlin logo 2006

RAF Merlin HC Mk3

The Merlin HC Mk3 is a new generation day and night operational multi-role helicopter which has greatly augmented the RAF's existing helicopter fleet. Merlin now makes up a vital part of the Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) alongside it's RAF counterparts, the Puma and the Chinook.

The aircraft's modern and sophisticated navigation, optical and avionics systems will enable it to operate in all weathers and in icing conditions. The helicopter incorporates state-of-the-art design and technology, offering improved safety, reliability and maintainability.

The first thing most people note on seeing the helicopter is its large size: 22.8m from the tip of the main blade to tip of the tail blade and 6.6m high. The roles of the aircraft are similar to the Support Helicopter aircraft already in service with the RAF. These roles include trooping, freighting and casualty evacuation. It has been designed to lift loads of up to 5443 Kg and has a maximum range of over 1100 km on internal fuel.

It is powered by 3 Rolls Royce/Turbomeca RTM322 engines with Full Authority Digital Electronic Control. Aircraft vibration is damped by a system called Active Control of Structural Response. Ninety percent of the fuselage is made from composite materials for strength and for weight reduction and the aircraft has an excellent redundancy level with some systems triplicated. This up-to-date technology has also gone into the remainder of the aircraft which includes elastomeric bearings fitted to the head and tail rotor hubs, designed to eliminate the lubrication required in these areas.

RAF Merlin HC3 at RIAT 2005
RAF Merlin HC3 at RIAT 2005.

The instrument system is electronic and is displayed on 6 high definition, full colour screens which give primary or secondary power system displays. The avionics are also state-of-the-art: a 1553 Data Bus is fitted together with navigation and communications systems and the Defensive Aids Suite is comprehensive. In summary, the Merlin HC Mk3 is a very modern and extremely capable aircraft, which will greatly improve the RAF SH Force's efficiency and will offer new challenges to the crews.

28 (Army Co-operation) Squadron
All of the RAF Merlin helicopters are operated by 28 Squadron, based at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire. The Sqn currently has 3 operational flights and an embedded Operational Conversion and Training Flight.

Since entering service, the Squadron has deployed the Merlin on training exercises from the Arctic Circle to the Middle East and North Africa. In addition the Sqn was involved in the demonstration of Merlin capability in the USA that resulted in its selection as the replacement Presidential helicopter. Operationally the Sqn has spent time in Bosnia and is currently deployed at Basrah Air Station under the guise of 1419 Flight in support of the coalition forces in Iraq.

28 Sqn Badge.
28 Sqn Badge.

The badge of 28 Squadron consists of a demi-Pegasus which represents the chalk white horse on the downs near Yatesbury, Wiltshire - the Squadron's first operational base and a Roman fasces which commemorates service in Italy during the First World War. The Motto 'Quicquid agas age' translates to 'Whatsoever you may do, do'.

28 (Army Co-operation) Squadron History
1915: Squadron formed at Gosport on 7 November as training unit.
1917: Moved to Yatesbury in July and re-equipped with Sopwith Camels and later moved to France.
1919: Moved to Italy along with the British Expeditionary Force.
1920: Disbanded on 20 January but reformed 4 months later and equipped with Bristol Fighter operating on the North-West Frontier (India).
1931: Bristol Fighter replaced by Westland Wapitis.
1936: Westland Wapitis replaced by Hawker Audaxes.
1941: Operated Westland Lysanders in Burma in support of British Forces. Later moved to Lahore and operated Hawker Hurricane fighter-bombers.
1943: Commenced operations over Burma with Hurri-bombers and continued until Japanese surrender. Re-equipped with Spitfires.
1949: Transferred to Hong Kong.
1951: Moved to Sek Kong and operated D.H. Vampires.
1954: Moved to Kai Tak and received D.H. Venoms.
1962: Operated the Hawker Hunter.
1966: Disbanded in December.
1968: Squadron reformed at Kai Tak on 1st April with Westland Whirlwind helicopters.
1972: Whirlwinds replaced by Westland Wessex helicopters.

No 28 was the last unit to leave the colony of Hong Kong before it was returned to Chinese control in June 1997 during which time it provided support not only to British forces, but local authorities on the colony.

2005 Winning Photograph
(Team Merlin Competition)

RAF Merlin HC3 at RIAT 2005 - 2005 Winning Photograph (Team Merlin Competition) by Neil Fortescue.
2005 Winning Photograph (Neil Fortescue)
(Team Merlin Competition).

RAF Merlin HC Mk3 at the Royal International Air Tattoo 2005
RAF Merlin HC Mk3 at the Royal International Air Tattoo 2005.

2006 Team Merlin Display Pilot
This year's Merlin display pilot is Flight Lieutenant Colin Dempster, a 32 year old pilot instructor on 28 (AC) Squadron's Operational Conversion Flight. Colin spent part of last years display season as the Merlin co-pilot. Originally from Glasgow, he joined the RAF in 1996, and on completion of flying training in 1999, was posted to 202 Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth to fly the Sea King in the Search and Rescue role. After a 3 year tour, which included service in the Falkland Islands, he moved across to the Support Helicopter Force and converted to the Merlin Mk 3. Since then he has deployed with the squadron to many parts of the world including the Balkans, Norway and Iraq. During 2005, he became a Qualified Helicopter Instructor (QHI) after completing a course at the Central Flying School (Helicopters) at RAF Shawbury. He has over 2000 hours of helicopter flying experience.

Team Merlin Display Co-Pilot
Flight Lieutenant Mike Barclay is one of the two Merlin display co-pilots this year. Born in Rhodesia, he moved to Edinburgh in the early nineties and went to university in Glasgow where he began his flying training. He then joined the Royal Air Force in 2000 before being sent to RAF Shawbury for helicopter training. After completion of training he became one of the first direct entrant pilots to be sent to fly the Merlin on 28 (AC) Squadron. He has nearly 1000 hours of helicopter flying experience. In three years he has been deployed to Bosnia, Norway, and Kenya and has recently completed Operational tours in Iraq.

Team Merlin Display Co-Pilot
Joining the team as one of the co-pilots for the first year is Flying Officer Andy Hodge. Born in Bristol, he joined the Royal Air Force in 2001 at the age of 18 shortly after completing his A-levels. With no previous flying experience he started on the Firefly before moving onto Rotary training at DHFS Shawbury in 2003. He joined 28 (AC) Squadron the following year as his first Operational posting and has completed nearly 500 hours on the Merlin. Achieving Combat Ready status last year, Andy has just completed his third tour in Iraq and is currently conducting his Joint Personnel Recovery (JPR) work up.

RAF Merlin HC3 Team
RAF Merlin HC3 Team.
       Flight Lieutenant Colin Dempster
Flt Lt. Colin Dempster.
       Flight Sergeant Russ Brompton
Flt Sgt. Russ Brompton.

2006 Team Merlin Display Lead Crewman
The Lead Crewman for the 2006 display season is 28-year-old Flight Sergeant Russ Brompton. Originating from Scarborough, Russ joins the team for the second consecutive season. After joining the RAF in 1998 he served with 72 Squadron based at RAF Aldergrove, Northern Ireland until 2001, during which period he achieved 1500 operational flying hours on the Wessex helicopter. From there, Russ joined 28 (AC) Squadron on the first Merlin conversion course in early 2002. He now has over 1100 flying hours on the Merlin and is a Qualified Helicopter Tactics Instructor (QHTI), Electronics Warfare Officer (EWO) and is the current 28 (AC) Squadron Crewman Standards Officer (STANO). He has served on operational duty in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and recently on Op Telic in Iraq.

2006 Team Merlin Display Manager
The Team Manager this year is 35 year old Crewman instructor Flight Sergeant Gareth Attridge. Hailing from Middlesex, this is Gareth's second season on the team after being one of the Merlin Crewmen last year. He joined the RAF in 1990 as an Air Loadmaster and after completion of training was posted to the C130 Hercules Wing at RAF Lyneham. He spent six years on 47 Squadron before transferring to the Support Helicopter Force. This was followed by 4 years on the Puma helicopter with 230 Squadron in Northern Ireland before moving across to his current position at RAF Benson. He is a Qualified Helicopter Crewman Instructor (QHCI) on 28 (AC) Squadron's Operational Conversion Flight. During his career so far, he has been on several operational tours in Northern Ireland and the Gulf and Balkans regions.Currently Gareth has achieved nearly 4500 flying hours on both fixed and rotary wing aircraft.

RAF Merlin HC3 at RIAT 2005
RAF Merlin HC3 at RIAT 2005.
               RAF Merlin HC3 at RIAT 2005
RAF Merlin HC3 at RIAT 2005.

2006 Team Merlin Display Operations Coordinator
This year the Team Operations Coordinator is newly promoted Sgt David Jones. He is 39 Years old and originates from Mold in North Wales. Dave joined the RAF in 1985 and after training was posted to RAF St Mawgan Air Traffic Control tower. Since then he has held posts at Chivenor, the London Air Traffic Control Centre at West Drayton and completed a tour as an instructor at the Central Air Traffic Control School, RAF Shawbury.. Dave has been on 28(AC) Squadron since 2001 and has deployed to Bosnia, Iraq and the United States.

RAF Merlin HC3 at RIAT 2005
RAF Merlin HC3 at RIAT 2005.
               Merlin Display Team Utility Vehicle at Abingdon Fayre 2005
Merlin Display Team Utility Vehicle
at Abingdon Fayre 2005.

RAF Merlin HC3 2006 Display Dates & Venues
25th - 60 Squadron 90th Anniversary, RAF Shawbury

2nd-3rd - Biggin Hill Airshow
4th - Mach 1 Airshow, Dublin, Eire
11th - RAF Cosford Airshow
18th - Kemble Air Day
24th - RAF Brize Norton Families Day (TBC)
25th - Salthill Airshow, Galway, Eire

1st-2nd - RAF Waddington International Airshow
6th - RAF Wittering 90th Anniversary Families Day
8th - RNAS Yeovilton Airshow
12th-16th - Royal International Air Tattoo, RAF Fairford
22nd-23rd - Farnborough Airshow
27th - RAF Odiham Families Day
28th - East Fortune
28th-29th - Sunderland International Airshow

17th-20th - Eastbourne Airshow
27th - Wings and Wheels, Dunsfold
31st - St Mawgan Families Day

2nd-3rd - Beauvachain International Airshow
7th-9th - RAF Leuchars
16th-17th - Shoreham Airshow

The Merlin will be appearing at other locations as a static display aircraft.

                     Thanks to Flight Sergeant Gareth Attridge and the rest of 'Team Merlin'.

Technical Specifications of the Merlin HC3.

Engines: Three Rolls-Royce / Turbomeca RTM-322 turbines
Length: 74ft 10in (22.81m)
Rotor Diameter: 61ft (18.59m)
Top Speed: 192mph (309km/h)
Accommodation: Normally crewed by one pilot, one navigator and two crewmen and up to 24 combat-equipped troops.