The AgustaWestland Merlin HC3 is the RAF version of the AW101 medium-lift helicopter, which was developed as a joint venture between Westland Helicopters in the UK and Agusta in Italy. Powered by three 2,312shp RTM322-01 turboshaft engines, the Merlin HC3 can lift a payload of up to 5,433kg, including 24 troops or a variety of vehicles and equipment.
The Merlin Airframe incorporates many advanced technologies, such as BERP composite rotor blades for increased lift and efficiency, and ACSR vibration control systems to ensure a smooth ride and reduced airframe stress.
The HC3 first was operational service in the Balkans in 2003, and served in Iraq during 'Operation Telic' until July 2009. From 2010, after being fitted with Kevlar ballistic armour, the Merlin HC3 helicopters operated in Afghanistan supporting 'Operation Herrick', transporting troops, ammunition and other essential supplies to the front line of the conflict.