Merlin: the GDELS proposal for German Airborne troops

Paolo Valpolini

Another contender for the German Army Division Schnelle Kräfte, the Rapid Deployment Division, is General Dynamics European Land Systems, GDELS in short. At Eurosatory the company unveiled its Merlin air transportable vehicle, which can fit into a CH-47F Chinook, the heavy transport helicopter already in service with the Netherlands that will soon also become the vertical lift workhorse of the German Bundeswehr, both countries planning the acquisition of a considerable number of such vehicles for Special Forces, Airborne troops and light infantry units, the estimated aggregate number being around 3,000 according to EDR On-Line sources.

The name of the vehicle was chosen because the Merlin, a small species of falcon living in the northern hemisphere, is known to be a swift flier and a skilled hunter, which copes well with the new 4×4 mission.

The Merlin leverages the experience acquired by GDELS on its Duro and Eagle vehicles, its driveline and suspensions being derivatives of those fitted to the two light vehicles currently in GDELS portfolio. No detailed information was provided on those elements, as well as on the engine that should be new and with increased fuel efficiency.

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The Merlin can carry up to 10 military, the driver and commander at the front, acceding through the two front doors. Behind them we find two rows of front facing seats, the six dismounts getting into the vehicle via two more side doors, while the two rear occupants, whose seats are inward looking, get on board via a rear door.

The Merlin is built on a shorter wheelbase and is 5 meters long and 1.82 meters wide, while the roof can be flip-down in order to bring the shape within air transportability limits on the CH-47 Chinook helicopter. According to information gathered by EDR On-Line the Bundeswehr requirements asks for two vehicles to be airlifted inside the same Chinook, the Merlin being definitely too long to cope with this requirement, which must however be confirmed.  When in operation the Merlin has a 6.3 tonnes GVW, the payload representing the majority as it is at 4.1 tonnes, according to company sources.

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The wide commonality with the Duro 4×4 chassis, the same used also for the Eagle, allows considerable reduction in the logistic footprint as well as in maintenance personnel training.

As for the vehicle body, this is designed for versatility, which allows the Merlin to be easily configured in a number of versions such as ambulance, logistic and combat missions, beside the personnel transport vehicle seen at the Paris exhibition.

GDELS is awaiting a Request for Quotation from the German BAAINBw, the Dutch one being expected at a later date according to information acquired at Eurosatory. The company has already produced an undisclosed number of prototypes, while trials with the potential end users have not yet started.

Photos courtesy GDESL and P. Valpolini