- Can currently carry up to 24 fully-equipped troops
The Merlin HC3 was the first of the next generation of medium support helicopters for the RAF. The aircraft transferred to Royal Navy command as part of the Commando Helicopter Force on 30 September 2014 and is currently operated by 28 (AC) Squadron RAF at RAF Benson and 846 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Yeovilton. 25 Merlin HCMk3 and HC Mk3A aircraft will be modified for operation at sea before completely transferring to RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset over the coming 2 years.
The aircraft can currently 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. Modifications will see the addition of a folding main rotor head to allow ship-borne operations and maintenance and the aircraft will eventually also have a folding tail rotor.
Three Rolls-Royce / Turbomeca RTM-322 turbines
74ft 10in (22.81m)
Normally crewed by one pilot, one navigator, or two pilots, and two crewmen and up to 24 combat-equipped troops.
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.
Merlins of No 28 Squadron deployed on their first operational tour - to the Balkans in support of UN Forces - in the Spring of 2003. In 2008, 28 Squadron was joined by 78 Squadron to form the Merlin Force. On 30 September 2014 78 Squadron disbanded and the Merlin helicopters were formally handed to the Royal Navy Commando Helicopter Force. In March 2015, the first aircraft departed RAF Benson with 846 NAS to move to RNAS Yeovilton.
- Support Helicopter (SH). The movement of troops, weapons, ammunition and support stores in and around the battlefield.
- Casualty Evacuation (Casevac). Removal of casualties and medical emergencies from forward areas.