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The 2007 RAF Merlin HC Mk3

Team Merlin logo 2006

RAF Merlin HC Mk3

The Merlin HC3 is operated by No 28 (AC) Squadron at RAF Benson and is the first of a new generation of advanced, medium support helicopters for the RAF. It is an all weather, day and night, multi-role helicopter used in both tactical and strategic operational roles. The aircraft carries an impressive defensive-aids suite, which includes a Radar and Laser Warning Receiver, Missile Approach Warners and Directional Infrared Countermeasures equipment, all integrated with an automatic chaff and flare dispensing system. This is one of the most comprehensive defensive aids suites fitted to any helicopter in the world.

To ensure accurate navigation anywhere on the globe, the aircraft's management computers take data from its laser-gyro, inertial-navigation platform and its doppler system and from air data sources, and combine the information with precise position data received from Global Positioning System satellites.

Navigation at night is enhanced by the crew's use of night-vision goggles and by the aircraft's multi-function turret, which can be fitted with forward- looking infrared radar. To increase the aircraft's range, the Merlin is equipped with extended range fuel tanks and is capable of air-to-air refuelling. Further range can be achieved by shutting down the third engine during the cruising phase of flight. It is also fitted with an active vibration-damping system, which reduces the level of noise and vibration inside the cabin to a level no greater than that of a turboprop aircraft. As a result, crew fatigue is much reduced during long transits and airframe life is increased.

RAF Merlin HC3 at RIAT 2006
RAF Merlin HC3 at RIAT 2006.

The Merlin is able to carry a diverse range of bulky cargo, either internally or under-slung. Cargo can include artillery, Land Rovers or light-strike vehicles and over five tonnes of freight. The spacious cabin can also accommodate up to 24 fully equipped combat troops and, when required, will convert to carry 16 stretchers for casualty evacuation or during humanitarian and disaster relief operations. Designed to operate away from base workshops and in difficult terrain, the Merlin has state-of-the-art support technology and incorporates aircraft health-and-usage diagnostics and a self-test capability for ease of maintenance.

The Merlin is armed with two general purpose machine guns converted for the air role, although there is provision for additional weaponry to be fitted at a later date.

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.

RAF Merlin HC Mk3 at the RAF Cosford Airshow 2006.
RAF Merlin HC Mk3 at the RAF Cosford Airshow 2006.

2007 Team Merlin Display Pilot
To be confirmed shortly.

2007 Team Merlin Display Co-Pilot
Flight Lieutenant Paul Butler is one of the two Merlin display co-pilots this year. Born in Manchester, he began his flying training with the Yorkshire University Air Squadron whilst studying at Leeds University. He joined the RAF in 2002 and completed his helicopter training at RAF Shawbury on the Squirrel and Griffin helicopters. From here Paul arrived at 28 (AC) Sqn in 2004 and he has successfully achieved Combat Ready status. He has completed several overseas tours including recent tours in Southern Iraq and has currently achieved over 1000 flying hours.

2007 Team Merlin Display Co-Pilot
Joining the team this year is 26 year old Flying Officer Kev Harris, who originates from Southampton. After joining the RAF in 2001 and completing Initial Officer Training he was posted to RAF Church Fenton for Basic Flying Training. Upon completion, he was streamed to the Rotary fleet and arrived at RAF Shawbury in early 2003. Kev received his Pilots Wings in November 2004 and then joined the Merlin Operational Conversion Course on 28 (AC) Squadron. Since then he has achieved over 700 hours on the Merlin and during this period he has been involved in many different exercises in the UK and abroad. More recently he has completed several overseas detachments including Operations in Iraq.

2007 Team Merlin Display Lead Crewman
One of the Crewmen on the team this year is 29 year old Sergeant Steve Thomas, who returns for a second season after his stint on the team in 2005. Originating from Liverpool, he joined the RAF in 2000 and after training at DHFS Shawbury, he joined 28 (AC) Squadron in 2003 and converted to the Merlin Mk3. In this period of time has managed to accumulate over 1300 hours including tours in Bosnia and recently in support of Op Telic in Iraq. Steve is currently a Crewman Trainer on one of the Squadron's Operational Flights.
2007 Team Merlin Display Lead Crewman
Sharing the duties of the Crewman is 37 year old Sergeant Dave Bryson. Originating from Stranraer, Scotland, Dave joins the team for the first time this year. After joining the RAF in 1999 as an Air Loadmaster, he was one of the last crewmen to be trained on the Wessex helicopter where he served with 72 Squadron based at RAF Aldergrove. Following the retirement of the Wessex, he joined 28 (AC) Squadron in 2002 and has currently achieved over a 1000 hours on the Merlin Mk3. This has included several overseas detachments including Bosnia and more recently the Gulf region. Dave is a Qualified Helicopter Crewman Instructor (QHCI) on the Operational Conversion Flight.

2007 Team Merlin Display Manager
The Team Manager is 36 year old Crewman instructor Flight Sergeant Gareth Attridge. Hailing from Middlesex, this is Gareth's third year on the team. 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 four 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 one of 28 (AC) Squadron's Operational Flights. During his career so far, he has been on operational tours in Northern Ireland and the Balkans and more recently in the Gulf. Currently Gareth has achieved 4500 flying hours on both fixed and rotary wing aircraft.

RAF Merlin HC3 at RIAT 2006
RAF Merlin HC3 at RAF Cosford 2006.
               RAF Merlin HC3 at RIAT 2006
RAF Merlin HC3 at RIAT 2006.

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 2006
RAF Merlin HC3 at RIAT 2006.
               Merlin Display Team Utility Vehicle at Abingdon Fayre 2006
RAF Merlin HC3 at RIAT 2006

RAF Merlin HC3 2007 Display Dates & Venues
Unfortunately it has been announced that the RAF Merlin HC3 display has been withdrawn from the airshow circuit for 2007 but may still appear in the static display at some of the larger airshows. Official explanation below:

The Merlin HC Mk3 Display of 2006 flown by Flight Lieutenant Dempster was immensely popular and a significant attraction for the general public and aviation enthusiasts alike at shows up and down the country. It demonstrated in superlative style the agility of the aircraft and the impressive skills of the aircrews and groundcrews who fly them and maintain them. It was always my intention to provide a Merlin Display for 2007 and indeed we had made considerable progress with the vital pre-season preparation.

The announcement by the Secretary of State for Defence on the purchase of 6 Danish Merlins to augment the UK Fleet has, however, necessitated a reprioritisation of resources to meet the introduction into service of these additional aircraft and much of the responsibility falls on 28(AC) Squadron. Simply put, there was considerable doubt as to whether we could support the Merlin Display without a significant number of late notice cancellations and thus public disappointment. I therefore made the decision to withdraw the Merlin from the display season but in order to afford the public the opportunity to see the aircraft up close it is my intention, whenever possible, to provide an aircraft for static displays at the larger shows.

For now the Squadron continues to deliver operational success in Iraq and we are looking forward to introducing the new variant into service - you never know, it may be on next year's Display Season!

Wing Commander Richard K Luck MA MCGI MRAes RAF
Officer Commanding 28 (Army Co-operation) Squadron
Royal Air Force

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.