A £388 million programme to upgrade the Royal Navy's Commando Merlin Mark 3’s is making progress, with the first three upgrades having already been delivered.

Forces News has been given special access to see the Leonardo Helicopters factory doing the work in Yeovil.  

The Merlin was originally built for the RAF in the late 90s before being handed to the Navy under the 2010 Defence and Security Review.

What Changes Do They Make?

It takes 11 months for the factory to turn a Mk3 into a Mk4.

97% of the aircraft wiring is taken out, the rear fuselage is replaced and a new instrument panel is fitted. The cockpit, engine rating and gearbox rating are also standardised.

Merlin Mk4 Factory Leonardo Helicopters

Dave Parry, Leonardo Helicopters Programme Management Team said: "There are two key phases… one, midlife updates for the avionics, so a refresh away from the 1980s/90s technology.

"But also, because the ownership is going over to the Royal Navy, we’re going to add ship-optimised capability.

"That is to make the aircraft capable of operating off the Royal Navy’s ships.

"In terms of cost, we are pretty much on cost to the programme, so that is a very good position to find ourselves in."

The helicopter in numbers. (Picture: MoD).
The helicopter in numbers. (Picture: MoD).