PICTURES: Royal Navy Merlins get new defensive aids

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The UK Royal Navy's ability to perform littoral warfare and overland operations using its AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin HM1 multirole helicopters has received a major boost, with an undisclosed number of aircraft having received a new defensive aids system (DAS) upgrade.

Lockheed Martin UK Integrated Systems received a contract in January 2008 to incorporate the modification under an urgent operational requirement (UOR) deal worth £7 million ($10.1 million). Test and evaluation activities including countermeasures jettison trials concluded last December (below), and the upgrade has now received release to service approval for operations.

 
© Lockheed Martin

"The addition of DAS represents a step-change in Merlin's operational capabilities that can now comprise new roles and theatre environments," says Lockheed. The modification effort also involved AgustaWestland, BAE Systems, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Petards Joyce-Loebl, Qinetiq and the UK Air Warfare Centre.

 
© Lockheed Martin

One modified aircraft is to deploy to the Middle East region aboard the Type 23 frigate HMS Richmond, with an RN source revealing that an L-3 Communications Wescam MX-15 electro-optical sensor pod has also been incorporated under a separate UOR deal. The payload's ability to downlink video imagery to the ground was due to be tested in mid-February, ahead of the deployment.