The future of AgustaWestland’s Yeovil manufacturing site in the UK has been secured following the company’s receipt last week of a contract worth about £400 million ($710 million) to upgrade at least 30 of the Royal Navy’s EH101 Merlin HM1 multi-mission helicopters.

EH 101 Royal Navy

Contained within a £750 million Merlin Capability Sustainment Programme (CSP) deal awarded to prime contractor Lockheed Martin UK, the work will include the integration of new avionics, communications and navigation equipment, a new open architecture mission system and fly-by-wire controls from 2010. To be conducted in Yeovil, the modifications will improve the aircraft’s BAE Systems Blue Kestrel maritime search radar, particularly its ability to track targets in the littoral environment.

The deal, which contains an option to upgrade a further eight aircraft, reflects the objectives of the UK’s Defence Industrial Strategy white paper, which seeks to safeguard national capability in strategically important sectors of the defence industry, including rotorcraft. Published last month, the document says the Merlin CSP project will “enable the cost-effective management of obsolescence on an aircraft that has components and design features that are becoming difficult to support”.

The UK Ministry of Defence expects the upgrade to deliver long-term cost reductions of £575 million through the removal of system obsolescence and reduced support costs. The CSP-standard Merlin is to enter service in December 2013, with the RN expecting to continue operations until 2029. The service operates 42 Merlin HM1s for anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare tasks from 44 delivered in 1998-2002.


Source: Flight International