LONDON, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Anglo-Italian helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland has received $1.24 billion in contracts from Britain for work on Merlin and Apache helicopters.
The first contract from the Ministry of Defense includes the conversion of 25 AW101 Merlin helicopters for maritime operations.
The Merlins, operated by the Royal Air Force, will be optimized for maritime use and will replace the Royal Navy's Sea King Mk4 helicopters, which are scheduled for retirement in 2016. The work will involve fitting new glass cockpits and avionics, a folding main rotorhead and tail, and improved undercarriage.
The second contract covers five-years of comprehensive support and maintenance services for Britain's fleet of Apache AH Mk1 attack helicopters.
"The U.K. defense industry makes an important contribution to the economy, generating revenue of over 22 billion pounds ($36.4 billion) each year and its highly skilled workforce plays a crucial part in growing our economy," said Defense Secretary Philip Hammond during a visit to an AgustaWestland facility in Britain. "This investment will help secure British jobs, providing security to thousands of workers and their families.
"This is also an important step in ensuring our armed forces have the best helicopters available, safeguarding the army's attack helicopter capability and providing the Royal Navy and Royal Marines with an upgraded, modern commando helicopter force."