My Review and Build of Italeri's 1/72 scale Kit #1248,
AW-101 Merlin HM1 Royal Navy ASW Helicopter

Last updated: January 24, 2016 - Mirrors, Winch, details, decals, touch-up, Complete

Introduction - AW-101 Merlin, HMA.1 Royal Navy Helicopter

The AgustaWestland AW-101 Merlin, HM1, is a medium-lift naval helicopter. It was developed as a joint venture between Westland Helicopters in England, and Agusta in Italy to develop a strong naval helicopter to replace their fleets of Sea King NAval helcipoters. This requirment defined a modern naval multi-role helicopter with very good range, carrying weight, loiter capability, and speed. The name "Merlin" is used for the aircraft in several nations that had adopted it, including Great Britain, Denmark and Portugal. Most aircraft are manufactured in two factories, on in Yeovil, England, and the other in Vergiate, Italy. License building is also occurring for variants in Japan and the United States, though those are not naval applications.

Orignally designated as EH101, when Westland Helicopters and Agusta merged to form AgustaWestland, the aircraft was redeignated as AW101. The first helicopter flew in 1987.

Thereafter, several pre-production aircraft were assembled into the early 1990s. Flight testing were suspended for six months following the crash of the second pre-production aircraft in January 1993. After evaluating the crash, the aircraft was approived for further flit testing in June 1993. Ultimately nine prototypes were built and tested thoroughly.

In February 1995, Great Britain formally placed its first order for a 22 aircraft. This order was then followed by Italy ordering 16 aircraft in Inctonber of that year.

Deliveries to Great Britan began in 1997 to the Royal Air Froce and the following year to the Royal Navy. Production continued and in 1999 the aircraft went into operational service with the Royal Navy.

In addition to replacing Sikorsky S-61 Sea Kings, the AW-101 has replaced other helicopters like the Boeing Vertol CH-113 Labrador. In service it has proven its multi-role capabilities by performing anti-submarine warfare, medium-sized transport duties, ship-based utility operations, air-sea rescue, and other, roles, including VIP transport duties and versions for commercial applications.

But the Royal Navy uses it princpally as an anti-submarine warfare helciopter having issues its first order for a total of 44 ASW aircraft. Initially its designation was HAS.1 but that has now changed to the HM1. All aircraft for the intial order were delivered to the Royal Navy by the end of 2002, and were formed into four Fleet Air Arm squadrons: 814 NAS, 820 NAS, 824 NAS and 829 NAS, all based at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall.

The Royal NAvy was planning to do away with the Westland Lynx naval helicopter in favor of an all Merlin fleet, which would have mean more orders. instead, in the 2010 Defense Review, the UK government indicted that the future naval helicopter fleet consist of the Merlin and the Wildcat, a new development of the Lynx.

In the meant time, a modernization and sustainment of the Merlin began. Thirty of the orginal aircraft were upgraded to a new Merlin HM2 standard as a result of the Merlin Capability Sustainment Programme. The HM2 has a new mission system, a new digital cockpit, electro-optical camera, and multi-static processing for the sonar system. The HM2 performed its first ship-borne test flight in September 2012 and achieved initial operational capability in June 2014. It is now possible that earlier airframes, which were intially not scheduled to be upgraded, may be updated nonetheless..

The Merlin HM1 and HM2 pperate from the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, Type 23 Duke class frigates, Type 45 Daring class Destroyers, and several Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessels including the Fort Victoria-class class. Forteen of the HMS aircraft will be assigned to the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier.

Further developments of the aircraft have led to a new version that will be able to carry an airborne early warning (AEW) pod under procurement through the Crowsnest programme to replace the Sea King ASaC7. In May 2015, The Minister of defense and Lockheed Martin UK (as the prime contractor for Crowsnest), selected Thales as the chosen bidder to provide the radar and mission system that will make up the heart of the Crowsnest capability.

The Royal Navy, as of 2015 operates the following AW101 Merlin squadrons: 814 Naval Air Squadron, 820 Naval Air Squadron, 824 Naval Air Squadron, 829 Naval Air Squadron, 845 Naval Air Squadron, and 846 Naval Air Squadron.

with its range, speed, capability of carrying up to four torpedos and/or other naval armamnets, and particularly ith its sensor capabilities, the AW101 Merlin is considered on of, if not the best ASW helicopter available.

Crew: 34
Capacity: (Merlin HM1)
- 26 troops (45 passengers) or,
- 6 tonnes of payload, or
- 16 stretchers (with sonar removed) for Merlin HM1
Capacity: (Merlin HM2)
- 30 troops (38 passengers) or,
- 5 tonnes of payload, or
- 4 stretchers (with sonar removed) for Merlin HM1
Length: 19.53 m-fuselage length (64 ft 1 in)
Rotor diameter: 18.59 m (61 ft 0 in)
Height: 6.62 m (21 ft 8 in)
Disc area: 271.51 m (2,992.5 ft)
Empty weight: 10,500 kg (23,149 lb)
Max. takeoff weight: 14,600 kg (32,188 lb)
Powerplant: 3 Rolls-Royce Turbomeca RTM322-01 turboshafts, 1,566 kW (2,100 shp) (take-off power) each
Never exceed speed: 309 km/h (167 knots, 192 mph)
Cruise speed: 278 km/h (150 knots, 167mph)
Range: 833 km (450 nmi,[177] 517 mi)
Endurance: 5 hours
Service ceiling: 4,575 m (15,000 ft)
- 4 Sting Ray homing torpedoes or
- Depth charges
Navigation systems: BAE Systems LINS 300 ring laser gyro, Litton Italia LISA-4000 strapdown AHRS
Radar: Selex Galileo Blue Kestrel 5000 maritime surveillance radar
ECM: Racal Orange Reaper ESM
Sonar: Thomson Marconi Sonar AQS-903 acoustic processor, Thomson Sintra FLASH dipping sonar array, and Active/passive sonobuoys

To date, over 130 aircraft have been built for several nations including the UK, Italy, Denmark, Canada, and the US. Of these, alnost seventy are operated by the UK.

What's in the Box - January 17, 2016

Italeri makes decent models and has been doing so for many years. This 1/72 scale model of the AW101 Merlin is no exception.

There is a lot of detail in this model and a number of very nice options.

The aircraft is modled in light gray, with three large sprues in that color and another sprue in clear plastic for the main canopy and numerous windows on the aircraft.

The aircraft can be built with the landing gear up or down. The main and tail rotor can be built to spin. The folding rear portion of the aircraft can be built to either operate, or shown folded or extended. The entire crew area is detailed very well with the pilot and co-pilot, the coorifor back to the ASW technician space with a detailed console for those two operators. In addition, the aft compartment is shown with seats for additional personnel.

Also all sorts of antennae and sensors for the ASW and maritime role.

All together , there are over 170 parts for this model.

There is a very good decal set with 76 decals. These decals are very well done and should make for an excellent presentation.

The instructions are done very well, with an excellent paint scheme for the Royal Navy helicopter depitced here. Though the color scehem is not in full color, it is nonetheless well done.

Here is the model with its box, the parts, the decals and the instructions:

This should be a fun build. I have always admired the eqipment used by the UK, particularly the Royal Navy. They are not as large as they once were, but they do produce excellent equipment that is world class and very squared away.

The Build Cabin, Rotar mechanics, Canopy and windows, fuselage - January 19, 2016

I started the model by gathering all the parts and then assembling the cabin of the aircraft. The model kit details out the entire cabin with very decent detail for the cockpit, the anti-submarine warfare technicain areas, and the aft cabin. Good controls and decent seats for all four of the crew, and then with dual sets for six other personnel as required.. Decent decals for the instrumentation, as well as the safety harnesses on all of the sets.

I gathered and assemble parts that could be painted together, paint the idividual parts as required, let them dry, place any decals required, and then assemble the cockpit area. U used Medium RAF gray for the cabin enterior, engine gray for he seat frames, kahki for the seats, and black for the instrumentations surfaces and the handles on the attitude controls.

I then gathered the parts for the fuselage and painted them . I used dark ghost gray for the fuselgae, using a little smudgin of light ghopst gray for some weather effects in certain places. .The cabin I just completed will be inserted into the fuselage. I also had to prepare the forward landing gear bay (painted white) and the main rotor assembly (without the blades) and place these within the one side of the fuselage.

In addition, there are numerous windows and the forward cockpit that had to be painted (the cockpit) and then carefully inserted into their required positions. In order to represent the newer aircraft, a couple of cut outs had to be made and then alternate glass used for those windows...all of which is supplied in the kit.

Then I inserted all of this into one side of the fuselahge.

The it was time to assemble the two sides of the main fuselage, clamp and hold them in place. Once they dried, I attached the nose cone, and the main canopy for the cockpit.

Once this was all dry, the main fuselage, the cabin, and the rotor mechanics are looking very good!

Yep...looking very good indeed.

In my next session I have a lot of detailing to do for the main fuselage including the main gear well pods on either side, the armament of the four torpedos, the landinggear, and numerous sensors around the aircraft.

Until then.

The Build Gear wells, Exhaust, Tail, Landing gear, Details, Torpedoes - January 21, 2016

Got quite a bit done in this session.

I started by painting, assembling and installing the distinctive main landing gear well pods for each side of the aircraft. The main landing gear retract into these pods while in flight. I also built, painted and installed the engine exhausts on either side, using gunship gray paint.

Then it was time to assemble the folding tail assembly. The kit comes with the ability to build this so it folds as it does in real life when stroing the helicopter on deck or in its hanger. Care has to be taken in removing the hinge assembly from the fret and then gluing the parts together so the assembly will actually hnig. But once you do that, things look pretty good. The entirior of the folding potrion I painted aluminum with some steel weathering.

I then painted and assembled the actual landing gear (tires black, wheels and struts white, with silver shocks) and installed thjem on the aircraft. The fron gear have double wheels and are installed in the front landing gear well, where they would retract in flight. Each of the main gear is installed into the pods we just built. I also added the large antennae array on the aft portion of the fuselage, just in front of the folding tail.

This is looking good with most of the fuselage and details complete.

Then it was time to move on. I started by assembling and installing the steps on the pilot's side entry to the aircaft. The steps (painted RAF Dar Sea Gray) fold down and the upper half of the hatch folds up to allow crew to enter the aircraft.

I intend to show the aircraft as it would look on deck, just prior to take-off with the hatch still opened. Once this was built and installed, I began assembling the four Stringray Torpedoes that the aircraft is capable of carrying.

At this point I made a decision. Instead of using the black and orange paint scheme included with the model and which you see on occassion as the aircraft carriers torpedes, I decided to make a change.

That orange and black scheme is for dummy, inert torpedoes used in practice and training. They are meant to be recovered. Instead, I opted for the live, war-shot torpedoes that the aircraft would carry on an actual patrol or into combat.

That pattern uses yellow (for high explosives) and black. The following pictures show the inert training torpedoes followed by pictures of the actual war shot torpedoes, and then my four torpedoes painted and then assembled on their pylons.

Then it was a matter of attaching each pylon to its respective side of the aircraft. At the same time I added all of the underside detail (antennae and various equipment) to the aircraft.

That is looking very nice...and wicked! LOL!

In the next session I will finish the details (like the SAR wench and the rear view mirrors on each side, and then add the decals and then the rotors. That should complete the aircraft...hopefully sometime this weekend.

The Build Mirrors, Winch, details, decals, Touch-up, Complete - January 24, 2016

This session started with adding the rear-view mirror assemblies to either side of the cockpit. They are small and so care has to be taken in removing them from the fret. I also painted the mirror portion a glossy silver, using Testors silver paint. I then assembled these and added them to the aircraft.

Then it was the small winch assembly located just behind the sliding cabin door on the right side of the aircraft (when looking at it from the front). This is used for SAR operations and any other winching necessary. I went ahead and added the door, partially open so we could see the interior. Again, the winch is made up of small, delicate pieces, particularly the hook. I assembled and painted these, the hook being a gunship gray, and then added them to the helo.

Now it was time for the decals. There are quite a few of them and they are for a Royal Navy Squadron that will utlimately fly off of the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers. After placing decals, I added the rotors. The rear rotor blades are black with red tips. The main rotor propellers are black. These were built, per the option in the model, to spin.

With that, it was time to do some touch-up paint, particularly on the weathering I have been working on as I built this. Then add the final dull coat finish. Once this was done and dried, it was time to simply take the pictures of the completed aircraft. I usually use the island in our kitchen for these pictures, but my wife has a big project going in the kitchen so we will have to be satisfied with my work table.

She has ended up looking really good. You can clearly see the detail in the cockpit and the ASW station behind the pilots, which you pass right behind when entering the aircraft on the left side via the entry there with the foldout stairs. I really like showing all four of the war shot torpedoes.

The AW-101 Merlin, a very good looking and capable ASW helicopter for the Royal Navy.

Schedule for Upcoming Builds: - January 24, 2016

  1. By Feb 14, 2016: Complete Complete RAF Typhoon in 1/72 Scale
  2. By Mar 01, 2016: Complete Complete Swedish JAS 39 Gripen in 1/72 scale
  3. By Mar 14, 2016, complete USAF MQ-9 Reaper drone in 1/72 scale
  4. By Apr 02, 2016, complete PLAAF J-11B in 1/72 scale

The completion of the PLAN Carrier group was centered on the already completed Trumpeter's 1/350 scale PLA Navy's Aircraft Carrier CV-16, Liaoning, (in addition to the other escorts already completed) included Mini Hobby's's PLAN Guangzhou, DDG-168. I recently pre-ordered a 1/350 scale model of the PLAN Type 071 LPD, Yuzhao Class, announced by Trumpeter and due out in October, 2013. I will end up adding two of those, propbably LPD-998 Yuzhao and LPD-999, Jinggangshan, add the PLAN- DDG-139, Ningbo, and the PLAN DDG-115, Shenyang, along with the PLAN Weifang, FFG-550 and thus build a PLAN ARG.

The completion of the US Carrier Strike group was centered on the completed Tamyia's 1/350 scale USS Enterprise, CVN-65, (in addition ot the other escorts already completed) included Trumpeter's, USS Freedom, LCS-1, Dragon's USS Preble, DDG-88 and Hobby Boss's USS Texas, SSN-775. When a 1/350 scale USS Enterprise, CVN-80 (or any Gerald R. Ford Class) is released from Trumpeter, Tamiya, Dragon, or whomever else, I will add it to this group along with another AEGIS Cruiser. Whichever Ford Class coms out in 1/350 scale, I will build it as the USS Enterprise, CVN-80.

The US ARG will include Tamiya's 1/350 scale, USS Iowa, BB-62 (which I have already completed), Trumpeter's 1/350 scale USS Iwo Jima LHD-7, Gallery's 1/350 scale USS Sommerset, LPD-25, Bronco Models 1/350 Scale USS New York, LPD-21, Cyber Hobby's USS Independence, LCS-2, Acadamy's 1/350 scale USS Rueben James, FFG-57, and another Flight IIA US AEGIS class detroyer based on Trumpeter's 1/350 scale USS Lassen, DDG-82...all of these models which I already own.

The completion of the UK Group featured the Airfix 1/350 scale HMS Illustrious, R06 as its centerp[iece until a 1/350 scale Queen Elizabeth carrier is released. When that happens, I will add that carrier to the group as its centerpiece. The Royal Navy CSG will also include two Airfix 1/350 scale Daring Class DDGs (one of which is already completed), two Trumpeter 1/350 scale Type 23 HMS Duke class Frigates (one of which is already completed), and the Hobby Boss 1/350 scale HMS Astute SSN (which is also already completed) and Airfix 1/350 scale HMS Tragalgar SSN. One day, when a 1/350 scale HMS Ocean LPD come out, I will use tt to start building a Royal Navy ARG.

The Russian CSG was completed and is centered on Heller's 1/400 scale Charles De Gualle, R91. I also built the 1/400 scale Heller Russian De Grasse, D612 DDG, which is an ASW DDG, and the Russian Aconit D612 FFG and Gueprattet F714 FFGs, both of which are Lafayette class frigates. These four vessels round out my Russian CSG. As soon as a Russian Robin class nuclear sub, like the Russian Perale S606 SSN is released in 1/350 or 1/400 scale, I will add that to the group. Also as soon as the Forbin D620, Horizon class anti-air DDG is released in 1/350 or 1/400 scale, I will purchase it and add it to the CSG. One day, when the models come out, I will purchase two 1/350 scale Mistral Class LPDs so I can create a Russian ARG with those vessels.

The completion of the Japanese JMSDF group was centered on Fujimi's very finely detailed, 1/350 scale Hyuga, DDH-181. It will be escorted by Trumpeter's 1/350 scale DDG-177, Atago, an AEGIS class DDG and the JMSDF, DDG-174, Kongo class (which I own), Trumpeters's 1/350 scale DDG-114 Susunami and DDG-111 (both of which are Takinami Class DDGs which I own), and by the 1/350 scale SS-503 Hakuryu (which I own), one of Japans new, very modern and capable AIP Diesel Electric submarines. As soon as a DDG-115 Akizuki in 1/350 scale is released, I will add it to this group. Should a 1/350 scale Osumi Class LPD be relased, I will buy two of those vessels and create a JMSDF ARG.

The completion of the Russian CSG (centered on Trumpeter's Kuznetsov which I own) the Russian Kirov Class nuclear battle cruiser (CGN), the Peter the Great, by Trumpeter (which I own), the Russian Slava Class cruiser, Varyag by Trumperter, a Trumpeter 1/350 scale Udaloy DDG, Hobby Boss's Akula II class SSN, the new Yasen class Russian SSN, and the Zevzda Oscar II SSGN, all in 1/350 scale.

Recently I purchased Heller's 1/400 scale Foch, the Clemceau Class carrier that was sold to the Brazilians in 2000 and in 2002 was refitted and became the Brazilian CV, Sao Paulo, using steam catapaults. I built the model as the Sao Paulo and thus started a Brazilian group. I will need to find a 1/350 scale Type 22 DDGs and the FFGs the Brazilians use which are not available at present. I did purchased a set of 1/400 scale A-4 Skyhawks and S-3 Trackers and built those as a suitable airwing for the Sao Paulo.

Then, again, once the models are available, I'd like to build an Italian Carrier Strike Group centered on the Cavour and their Horizon DDGs, a Spanish Carrier Strike Group centered on the Juan Carlos and their F-100 AEGIS FFGs, and ultimatly an Australian Strike Group centered on the new Canberra Class LPD and the Hobart class AEGIS DDGs. If they ever build the models, an Indian Carrier Strike Group centered on either the Vikramaditya or their new ADS Carrier, the Vikrant, and their Kolkata class DDGs and Shivlak class FFGs would also be nice.

Years more worth of work!

You can see all of these actual carriers, read their histories and specifictions at my site:


...and most of their surface escorts at:


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