The Merlin HC3 is the Royal Air Force's newest support helicopter which replaces the Wessex helicopter. Twenty-two of the aircraft have been delivered and all serve with No 28 Squadron at RAF Benson.
The 3-engined Merlin can carry up to 24 fully-equipped troops. The aircraft can be armed with two general purpose machine guns mounted in port and starboard cabin windows, and can be equipped with a wide variety of role equipment, including a rescue hoist and a roller floor to assist loading cargo via the rear ramp.
Merlin HC3 -
Abingdon Fayre 2005
The Merlin will be the first British military helicopter which can be equipped with an air-to-air refuelling probe to greatly increase the aircraft's range and reduce deployment times. An active vibration damping system reduces the level of noise and vibration inside the cabin to a similar level to turboprop aircraft, reducing crew and passenger fatigue and increasing airframe life.
The Role of the Merlin HC3 is the movement of troops, weapons, ammunition, and support stores in and around the battlefield.
Merlin HC3 -
Abingdon Fayre 2005
28 (Army Co-operation) Squadron , RAF Benson
28 (AC) Squadron officially reformed on 17 July 2001 as home to the Merlin helicopter. Merlin now makes up a vital part of the Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) alongside its RAF counterparts, the Puma and the Chinook.
28 Squadron reformed in 2000 to operate the first Merlin HC3 helicopters from RAF Benson, these arriving from January 2001 onwards. The first operational deployment by the squadron with its Merlins was made in 2003 when aircraft commenced operations in Bosnia.
The 28 Squadron Motto is Quicquid agas age - 'Whatsoever you may do, do'.
1915 - Formed at Gosport.
RAF Merlin HC Mk3 Displaying at Abingdon Fayre 2005
The Merlin HC Mk3 is a significant advance on the Wessex helicopter which it has replaced and also reflects the progress in both roles and capabilities of support helicopters.
The Merlin HC Mk3 has a single main rotor configuration powered by three uprated Rolls Royce Turbomeca RTM322 engines. It has an all-up take off mass of 14.6 tonnes, maximum speed of 167 knots and range on internal fuel in excess of 1000km. The operating range can be extended by virtue of an air to air refuelling capability and continuous operations are possible. Designed to carry 24 troops in crash-attenuating seating, fitted with active noise reduction (ANR) headphones. The seats can be folded away and a range of cargo or small vehicles loaded via a rear ramp or side door. A cargo winch and roller conveyor for palletised freight are integrated. Under slung loads can be carried.
pic from Sqn Ldr Mark Beardmore
All the aircraft will be fitted with a comprehensive Defensive Aids Suite (DAS) that will include a Radar Warning Receiver (RWR), a Laser Warning Receiver (LWR), Chaff and Flare dispensers and a Directional Infra-Red Countermeasures (DIRCM) system. A limited number will also be fitted with Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR). 3G agility and a low noise signature enhance effectiveness and minimise environmental impact. Wire strike protection, armoured crash attenuating crew seats, automatic fire protection systems and the defensive aids provide enhanced survivability.
The 2005 display crew include:
Pilot - Squadron Leader Mark Beardmore,
Master Aircrewman - Paul Couchman,
and 2 other members of the crew drawn from the Squadron as required.
First display of the 2005 season was at Abingdon Fayre in Oxfordshire where it put on a very impressive show. The Merlin started its display trailing red smoke, demonstrated the rear ramp opening, then landed and deployed a small utility vehicle before taking off and continuing its impressive display.
Earlier on in the Abingdon show the RAF Merlin Display Team demonstrated their latest capability of retrieving the RAF Chinook's rear wheel using the utility vehicle after the Chinook managed to lose a rear wheel during its 'wheelie' landing and reverse take-off. It is not yet known if this demonstration will be repeated as part of the Merlin's 2005 display season :)
Chinook HC2 missing rear wheel (left)
Merlin Display Team recovers wheel (right)
May 1st - Abingdon Fayre
May 7th/8th - Duxford V.E. Day Airshow
June 12th - RAF Cosford Airshow
July 2nd/3rd - RAF Waddington Air Show
July 16th/17th - Royal International Air Tattoo
September 10th - RAF Leuchars Air Show
September 17th - RNAS Yeovilton Air Day
Thanks to Squadron Leader Mark Beardmore, Master Aircrewman Paul Couchman, and the rest of the crew of the Merlin HC3 2005 Display aircraft for an excellent demonstation of the capabilities of this aircraft. More details on the Merlin HC3 can be found on the Royal Air Force website.