Leonardo supporting the UK Armed Forces’ Covid-19 response

Royal Navy Merlin MK2 AW101.
Royal Navy Merlin MK2 AW101.

Leonardo, at its site in Yeovil, not only builds and designs rotorcraft but it also supports aircraft once in operation by its military customers. The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted even more this key area of customer engagement for the Company.

The British Army, specifically 1 Aviation Brigade HQ, was tasked to provide two aircraft every day to support the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Those two aircraft (and often a spare aircraft) were generated every day from the pool of seven aircraft that Leonardo maintains on behalf of 1 Regiment, Army Air Corps; normally to provide Conversion-To-Type training sorties for new pilots. These aircraft were used to fly government officials and senior NHS staff around the country to the Nightingale hospitals that were being built.

Steve Longdon, Head of Wildcat Support and Training Service at Leonardo Helicopters (UK), commented on the support Leonardo in Yeovil provides to the armed forces: “We build new and modify existing aircraft at Yeovil to provide operational capability to the UK Ministry of Defence’s Front Line Commands. For Wildcat, these are the Joint Helicopter Command [JHC] and Navy Command.”

Leonardo AW159 Wildcat
Leonardo AW159 Wildcat.

He explained further how once an aircraft is delivered, Leonardo through its support contracts enables the provision of training to aircrew and maintainers, materiel spares and repairs, technical data and information, aircraft scheduled maintenance, and a guaranteed number or available sorties to meet an annual flying rate.

“We may not be wearing military uniforms, but here at Leonardo, we strongly believe that our day job is to do everything possible to keep military aircraft operationally available to allow the MoD to meet its Annual Flying Task commitments,” said Longdon.

In addition, the UK MoD’s fleet of Merlin helicopters have also been involved in the Covid-19 pandemic operations. Leonardo, through its Integrated Merlin Operational Support (IMOS) contract, has been supporting the UK MoD in its daily flying task commitments to ensure the helicopters are available to deploy at a minimum of 24 hours’ notice.

Simon Cleal, Head of Integrated Merlin Operation Support at Leonardo Helicopters (UK), commented: “It’s been a real privilege for the IMOS Team to be involved in supporting such an important and unprecedented effort by the UK MoD, although challenging at times, we are all extremely proud to be involved in supporting such a capable and fantastic aircraft and will continue to provide exemplary support to the UK MoD customer.”

The support has involved providing Navy Command with three Merlin Mk2 aircraft for casevac/MACA (Military Aid to Civilian Authority) operations from RNAS Culdrose and JHC, who have embarked three Merlin Mk4 to RFA Argus for UK Foreign Office support in the Caribbean and three Merlin Mk4 in support of UK MACA operations.

Nick Whitney, MD of Leonardo Helicopters (UK), stated: “I am immensely proud of the support Leonardo continues to provide to our Armed Forces, but particularly during challenging times such as Covid-19.

“We work closely with our customers every day which grants us an in-depth insight into their challenges and their needs. Our platforms are designed to meet our customers’ requirements. As the Armed Forces utilise the Wildcat and Merlin we can provide great levels of synergy in our support to them,” he added.

Leonardo has continued to provide resources and people in support of national institutions’ management and containment of the pandemic. The Company has been able to guarantee essential support to its customer base spanning aircraft maintenance to cyber security and satellite services to helping operators and authorities to face the Covid-19 medical and security challenges in the UK and worldwide.


  • Leonardo in Yeovil continues to be at the forefront of rotorcraft development and the Company is investing in the next-generation of technology and innovation.
  • The site is the UK’s only end-to-end helicopter manufacturer. Leonardo Helicopters (UK) builds and designs rotorcraft in Somerset and exports its products globally.
  • With a longstanding experience in aviation over the last 100+ years at the facility, Leonardo continues to take great pride in supplying its high-tech aircraft to the British Armed Forces.