Merlin HC3

The Merlin is the first of a new generation of advanced, medium support helicopters for the RAF designed to operate away from base workshops and in difficult terrain.

It is an all-weather, day and night, multi-role helicopter used in both tactical and strategic operational roles. Its diverse range of bulky cargo carried internally or underslung can include artillery, Land Rovers or light-strike vehicles and more than five tonnes of freight.

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.


  • 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


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 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.

The Merlin is armed with two general purpose machine guns converted for the air role.


Tall, wide cabin tapering into a large tail fin. The underside of the taper is a large rear-loading cargo door (1). The engine housing is prominent (2) and enhances the square look of the main fuselage. The tricycle undercarriage retracts, the nosewheel into the fuselage, the main gear into the two large fuselage sponsons. The forward fuselage is heavily glazed (3).

In flight


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Merlin HC3

Merlin taking off

Armed with general purpose machine guns converted for the air role.

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