Naval Warfare

Safran Awarded Royal Navy Contract for Support of Merlin Helicopter Engines

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Safran Awarded Royal Navy Contract for Support of Merlin Helicopter Engines

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Royal Navy Leonardo AW101 Mk4/4a Merlin Helicopter
Royal Navy Leonardo AW101 Mk4/4a Merlin Helicopter

Availability of the Royal Navy’s fleet of 55 Merlin helicopters is set to increase thanks to a new engine support contract award which runs through to 2030. Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) has placed a £300m, six-year contract with Safran Helicopter Engines UK to deliver continuous support for the helicopter’s RTM322 engine and support British jobs. The six-year contract, which starts on 1 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. Through various contracts, including a joint venture with Rolls Royce, Safran has provided engine support for Merlin’s RTM322 since 1998.

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.”

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.”

Safran to support New Zealand NH90 Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 turboshaft engine
Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 turboshaft engine. (Photo by Safran)

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.

The Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322 is a turboshaft engine produced by Safran Helicopter Engines. It was originally conceived and manufactured by Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Limited, a joint venture between Rolls-Royce plc and Turbomeca (now Safran Helicopter Engines). The engine was designed to suit a wide range of military and commercial helicopter designs. The RTM322 can also be employed in maritime and industrial applications. The Safran Aneto is a later development targeted for the super-medium and heavy helicopters, developed by Safran Helicopter Engines, unveiled at London’s Helitech on 3 October 2017 and covering the 2,500 to 3,000 hp (1,900 to 2,200 kW) range. The RTM322 powers 60% of the worldwide fleet of Leonardo EH101/AW101 Merlin helicopters and 75% of NHIndustries NH90s. In 2013, Safran Helicopter Engines acquired the entire RTM322 program.

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