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Defence

Safran secures Merlin helicopter engine support contract

Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) has placed a £241 million, six-year contract with Safran Helicopter Engines UK to deliver continuous support for the Merlin helicopter’s RTM322 engine.

Image courtesy DE&S

The six-year contract, which starts on 1st April 2024, will deliver an improved, flexible arrangement that optimises availability and grades success against agreed performance outputs, ensuring Merlin’s capability while carrying out its vital roles delivering UK maritime force protection, anti-submarine warfare and amphibious medium lift capability.

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The contract award will serve to increase the availability of the Royal Navy’s fleet of 55 Merlin helicopters.

Minister for Defence Procurement James Cartlidge said: “The versatile Merlin has been a workhorse for the Royal Navy for years, protecting and supporting global deployments.

“This new support contract will increase the mission availability of the Merlin so it can continue hunting submarines, conducting maritime patrols, ferrying troops, and evacuating casualties.”

Keith Bethell, Director – Helicopters at Defence Equipment and Support, said: “During the years the Merlin has proved to be an outstandingly versatile asset to the armed forces and Safran’s expertise has contributed to that success through meticulous support for the RTM322 engine.

“This contract secures more than 30 high skilled jobs in the UK, mainly in Fareham, and shows that the engine is being looked after and maintained in the best way possible.”

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There are two types of Merlin helicopter currently in use in the Royal Navy.

The MK2 features enhanced radar and sonar systems that make it a potent enemy sub hunter but it is also used for maritime patrol, troop ferrying, casualty evacuation, search and rescue and other contingency tasks.

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.

The other Merlin helicopter currently in service by the Royal Navy is the MK4, which 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.

Through various contracts, including a joint venture with Rolls-Royce, Safran has provided engine support for Merlin’s RTM322 since 1998.

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