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Air Platforms

CHF sets out Merlin aerial refuelling ambitions

01 February 2018

The UK Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) has a requirement and a desire to reconstitute the latent air-to-air refuelling (AAR) capability of its AgustaWestland Merlin HC4/4A troop transport and assault helicopters, but currently lacks to funds to do so, a senior service official told Jane’s on 1 February.

Previous trials of the Merlin saw the RAF certify the aerial refuelling for the helicopter in 2008. The Commando Helicopter Force, which now operates the type, is keen to implement the capability, but requires the funding to do so. (AgustaWestland)Previous trials of the Merlin saw the RAF certify the aerial refuelling for the helicopter in 2008. The Commando Helicopter Force, which now operates the type, is keen to implement the capability, but requires the funding to do so. (AgustaWestland)

Speaking at the IQPC Military Helicopter in London, the Commanding Officer (CO) 846 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), Royal Marine (RM) Lieutenant Colonel Will Penkman, said that his service is very keen to stand-up the AAR capabilities of the Merlin helicopters that it received from the Royal Air Force (RAF). The aircraft are already plumbed for AAR, and it would just be a case of refitting the aerial refuelling probes and training the crews to reinstate the capability.

“It is early days [in the CHF’s efforts to make its 25 Merlins AAR-capable], it is not currently a funded capability,” Lt Col Penkman said, adding: “That said, it is absolutely something that we really want to do.”

The colonel’s comments came on the back of a Tweet sent earlier in the day by his counterpart on 845 NAS, Royal Navy (RN) Commander Robert Bond, who posted images of a refuelling probe having been reattached to a Merlin helicopter. The Tweet was captioned: “The future is upon us…”. Lt Col Penkman told Jane’s that this Tweet was likely intended to remind the decision-makers in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and beyond that this capability exists, and to “start a conversation” on getting it reinstated.

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