A Qinetiq-led team has won an eight-year contract worth over £10 million from Lockheed Martin to test and evaluate enhancements to the Royal Navy’s multi-role Merlin Mk1 helicopter.

Qinetiq will work with a mixed MOD and industry team on the Merlin Capability Sustainment Plus (MCSP) helicopter programme. The project is to update the Royal Navy Merlin Mk1, enabling better tracking, improved submarine detection and enhanced night operations.

Working within the framework of its Long Term Partnering Agreement (LTPA) with the MOD, Qinetiq and military personnel will join the combined test and evaluation team. The team includes experts from Lockheed Martin, AgustaWestland, the Royal Navy, the MOD and other industry partners.

Using four helicopters, Qinetiq is contracted to provide 550 test and evaluation flying hours. The programme will be delivered over a number of staged releases, with final operational delivery by 2014.

The first flights of the programme are scheduled to begin in late 2010 at AgustaWestland’s Yeovil facility in Somerset. Flight test activity will then move to the Aircraft Test and Evaluation Centre (ATEC) at Boscombe Down in September 2011 to make use of the test and evaluation facilities at the Qinetiq operated site.