Defence Minister Lord Drayson today unveiled the first of six new Merlin Helicopters acquired from Denmark, on a visit to RAF Benson. The Minister also announced the establishment of a new RAF Merlin Squadron - 78 Squadron - to be based at Benson.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Defence Minister Lord Drayson today unveiled the first of six new Merlin Helicopters acquired from Denmark, on a visit to RAF Benson. The Minister also announced the establishment of a new RAF Merlin Squadron - 78 Squadron - to be based at Benson.
The MoD announced in March 2007 that it was buying six additional Merlin helicopters from Denmark at a cost of £175M in order to deliver a rapid increase in helicopters for operations. The six helicopters have been delivered to the UK and are undergoing work at Augusta Westland to integrate them into the RAF fleet. They will be available for operations early next year.
At Augusta Westland, the UK Merlins will be modified for operations and will have the latest generation of advanced rotor-blades which will enhance their speed, range and lift. This will greatly enhance performance even in demanding environments like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Lord Drayson, Minister for Defence Equipment Support, said:
"Battlefield support helicopters are a vital capability for military commanders. I am committed to making sure we deliver the equipment our Armed Forces need, and these new helicopters will increase the Merlin fleet by a quarter. By acquiring these helicopters from Denmark we have been able to speed up the delivery of extra helicopter capability, which will allow commanders more choices at their disposal when they plan for operations. "I am also very pleased to announce that 78 Squadron is being established at RAF Benson to operate these helicopters. RAF Benson already operates the RAF's existing Merlin fleet and the new Squadron will add to the capability at the base."
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Notes to Editors
1. The MoD announced on 30 March 2007 that it was acquiring six Merlin helicopters from Denmark, and would convert eight Chinook Mk3 helicopters. The first Merlin helicopters are expected to be available within a year, and the first Chinooks within two years.
2. Both the Merlins and Chinooks will be fitted for operations but not all will be deployed at any one time. These measures will also improve the long-term sustainability of our helicopter fleet and increase the number available for any new contingent operations.
3. The agreement with Denmark and Augusta Westland has a cost to the UK of £174.7m, including: the airframes, some UK specific modifications ( including defensive aids ), spares and "BERP IV" blades which offer improvements to speed, range and lift capacity of the platform, and will give the hot-high performance needed to deploy to Afghanistan.
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