Royal Norwegian Air Force tested IRIS-T in air-to-ground mission
The first Agusta Westland AW101 Merlin Mk4 made its maiden flight in October 2016 at the Yeovil facility in southwest England. Leonardo is upgrading 25 Royal Navy Merlin Mk3/3A aircraft to Merlin Mk4/4A standard as part of the Merlin Life Sustainment Programme (MLSP) contract, valued at £330 million. Deliveries of aircraft will start in 2017 and continue through to 2020 with the work being performed at Leonardo’s Yeovil facility.
The AW101 Merlin Mk4/4A aircraft are fully optimised for ship operations and includes automatic main rotor blade folding and tail fold. The aircraft are also fitted with the same cockpit as the Royal Navy’s Merlin Mk2 aircraft, giving the Merlin fleet a common cockpit featuring five integrated display units, two touch screen units for controlling the aircraft’s systems and mission equipment, as well as two cursor control devices for cursor control of the tactical displays.
Functionality of the short-range air-to-air missile IRIS-T (Infra Red Imaging System Tail/Thrust Vector-Controlled), produced by Diehl Defence, Germany and selected for the Eurofighter Typhoon, F-16, EF-18, Tornado and Gripen, “has been extended.” After its initial optimisation for air-to-air operations, procured for short-range (IRIS-T SLS) ground-based air defence, its functionality has been enhanced with an air-to-surface engagement capability. This basic air-to-ground capability provides the ability to acquire, track and engage individual ground targets like boats/ships, small buildings and vehicles and was successfully verified in September 2016 by a test firing from a Norwegian F-16.