The Lockheed Martin and AgustaWestland HH-71 team have successfully conducted aerial refueling tests involving a Royal Air Force AW101 Merlin Mk3 helicopter and an Italian Air Force KC-130J tanker, the companies announced.
The fuel transfer occurred over the south of England on February 13, marking the first time a British helicopter has demonstrated air-to-air refueling capability. The AW101 and RAF test pilots successfully plugged the helicopter’s refueling probe to each of the tanker’s two wing-station drogues on the first attempt. Sorties were flown at 4,000 feet with both aircraft traveling at 127 knots and, according to Lockheed Martin, “All trial objectives were completed.”
“With this proven aerial refueling capability,” said Lockheed Martin CSAR-X (combat search and rescue) v-p Dan Spoor, “the aircraft has demonstrated all critical capabilities required for the CSAR mission.”
All Merlin Mk3 helicopters have air-refueling capability. This trial was the latest step in providing an operational release for in-service Merlin Mk3 helicopters fitted with the advanced design BERP III and BERP IV rotor blades.