The Royal Navy’s AgustaWestland Merlin HM2 helicopter fleet has achieved full operational capability, with 80% of its eventual 30 modified aircraft having been returned to use.

Announced during the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition in London on 15 September, the development is a declaration that the type is “able to support Royal Navy frigates, destroyers and eventually the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers on operations around the world”, says Lockheed.

The Merlin fleet is being modified under a capability sustainment programme worth £807 million ($1.2 billion). This includes enhancements to the aircraft’s cockpit, radar and mission systems. Six of the Royal Navy aircraft remain to be returned to service, according to Lockheed.

Meanwhile, Lockheed says a separate programme to equip the Merlin HM2 platform with updated defensive aids system equipment, ballistic protection and an electro-optical/infrared sensor will be completed next month.