AgustaWestland, an agreement with the UK for the conversion of 25 AW101 for maritime operations

AgustaWestland, an agreement with the UK for the conversion of 25 AW101 for maritime operations

The Italian company has signed an agreement for readjusting 25 AW101 Merlin helicopters for the Royal Navy. The aircrafts will be upgraded to HC4/4A standard

AgustaWestland has signed an agreement with the British Ministry of Defence for converting and upgrading 25 AW101 Merlin Helicopters. The aircrafts are currently used for Royal Air Force’s operations on behalf of the Royal Navy. The operation is worth 910 million euros, which include a second five-year contract concerning the supply of support and maintenance for the Apache AH Mk1 attack helicopters

The first contract concerns the conversion of 25 AW101 Merlin helicopters for maritime operations for the Merlin Life Sustainment Programme. After the changes, the 25 AW101 helicopters will be transferred to the Royal Navy, where they will replace the historic Sea King Mk4.

The AW101 is a three-engine multi-role military helicopter, weighing 15 tons and designed for both military and civil markets. The aircraft was designed thanks to a joint venture between the Italian Agusta and British Westland Aircraft that took place in 1987, 13 years before the two companies merged together. Each helicopter costs 25 million dollars. The Royal Air Force has been using the AW101 since January 2001. On the other hand, the Italian Navy has 21 models in its 1st and 3rd Helicopter Groups. The last aircraft was delivered in 2009 during a ceremony at Maristeali airbase in Luni, in the Italian province of La Spezia.

AgustaWestland’s aeronautics giant can transport up to 15.000 kg and 67 soldiers, reaching a maximum cruise speed of 278km/h. Furthermore, it has three engines supplying a five-bladed main rotor (the diameter of each blade is 18.59 meters). The variant that RAF selected has Rolls Royce Turbomeca RTM322 turboshaft engines, while the Italian Navy chose the  General Electric CT7s.