RAF Benson has taken delivery of the first of six new Merlin battlefield helicopters from the Royal Danish Air Force to be used for training ground crew.
The acquisition of the additional Merlin aircraft was announced by Des Browne, the Secretary of State for Defence, on 30 March 2007 as part of a package of measures to enhance battlefield support helicopter capability available to operational commanders. The aircraft will increase the Merlin Support Helicopter fleet by over 25 per cent.
Lord Drayson, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, said: ‘It would normally have taken at least three years to provide these additional aircraft via a conventional route. However, we have taken an innovative approach and, with the assistance of the Danish Government, we will be able to provide a significant boost to our support helicopter force in less than 12 months.
‘Together with the two new C-17s that will be delivered next year, these helicopters underline our commitment to providing our forces with the capabilities they need.’
The second aircraft is due to arrive at RAF Benson later this week. The remaining four are being prepared for operational use and deployment at AgustaWestland in Yeovil.