The Royal Navy was the first of the UK's armed services to induct into service the multi-purpose Merlin helicopter, this being the British military designation of what was the EH Industries EH101, now the Leonardo AW101. It did so in Merlin HM1 form, front-line operational capability being achieved in 2000.
An upgrade programme produced 30 examples of the HM2 version with, amongst other improvements, enhanced mission systems and avionics. Anti-submarine warfare is the stock-in-trade of the Navy Merlins, for which role the type is armed with Sting Ray torpedoes. That aside, this is very much a multi-role helicopter, able also to perform general passenger and cargo transport, search and rescue, surface patrol, casualty evacuation and anti-piracy or anti-drug-running sorties.
Photo Credits: Rich Cooper