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Allowing the Royal Navy to flex its airborne muscles, the versatile Merlins defend maritime forces (MK2) and empower the Royal Marines (MK4) for elevated missions.

Merlin helicopter

3D visualisation of Merlin helicopter


Royal Navy Merlin helicopter flying away from the camera

The ultimate sub-hunter

There are two types of Merlin helicopter currently in use in the Royal Navy, the mark-2 (Mk2) and the mark-4 (Mk4). The Mk2 is principally an anti-submarine warfare helicopter although this versatile aircraft can also provide other roles, such as search and rescue, cargo transfers and maritime patrol.

The crews’ training and kit makes the Merlin Helicopter Force one of the best submarine hunters in the world. The Mk2 can also be converted to airborne surveillance and control with the addition of a powerful exterior-mounted radar.

Merlin helicopter flies over town in Portugal

Commando deployer

The other Merlin helicopter currently in service by the Royal Navy is the MK4, and this features several modifications for use by the Royal Marines. These include a fast roping beam that allows the rapid deployment of Special Forces from the main cabin door.
Royal Navy personnel walk around a Merlin helicopter onboard an aircraft carrier

Muscle across the fleet

Since coming into service in 2014, the Merlin MK2s have been deployed from a number of platforms across the Royal Navy, including the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers, the Daring Class destroyers, the Duke Class frigates and the RFA vessels.

About the crew

Anti-submarine warfare Merlin Mk2 crews are known as ‘pingers’, after the noise of active sonar. Each aircraft has a crew of four: two pilots, one observer who is often the mission commander and in charge of navigation, weapons and radar, and an aircrewman who covers the sonar.

When the helicopter is role-fitted for airborne surveillance and control, the crew are known as ‘baggers’, for the distinctive bag which houses a powerful radar which is lowered under the fuselage when in flight. The crew of three consists of one pilot and two observers. Flying high above the carrier strike group, the baggers look for possible threats and can direct other aircraft such as the F-35 jets.

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