Merlin HC3/3A


An all weather, day and night, multi-role helicopter used in both tactical and strategic operational roles.


  • Engines: Three Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM 322 turbines
  • Thrust: 2263shp each
  • Max speed: 167kts
  • Length: 22.8m
  • Max altitude: 15,000ft
  • Span: 18.6m
  • Aircrew: 4

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Who uses the Merlin HC3/3A

28 (Army Co-operation) Squadron
RAF Benson
78 Squadron
RAF Benson


The Merlin (Bird of prey) HC3 and HC3a are operated by No 28 (AC) Squadron and 78 Squadron at RAF Benson. 78 Squadron was re-formed on 3 Dec 07 to allow for the increase in aircraft after the purchase of the 6 Danish Merlin HC3a earlier in 2007. The Merlin 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 display 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 can be equipped with extended range fuel tanks and is capable of air-to-air refuelling, although this option is not currently used by the RAF. 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.

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.

Aircraft recognition - Merlin

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