A MULTI-MILLION pound Royal Navy helicopter forced to make a landing in a farmer’s field in Studland was stuck in the mud for more than a week after a fault left engineers baffled.

The Merlin aircraft first landed in the private field on October 2 after crews detected a possible technical fault.

No one was injured in the landing, which happened during an exercise off the south coast.

However, initially the cause of the fault was not known – and it sparked a week-long problem for engineers.

Not long after the landing, a Chinook was sent out to assist with the Merlin’s recovery.

Initially, officials from the Navy said: “A Royal Navy Merlin which was taking part in a routine exercise on the south coast made a precautionary landing in a safe and controlled manner in a field near Corfe Castle.

“All personnel are well. Squadron engineers are working to enable the helicopter to return to its home base at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton.”

However, Malcolm Tice, who repeatedly snapped images of the Merlin in the field, said the helicopter appeared to be “in distress” as it landed.

And days later, despite the efforts of engineers, the problem wasn’t solved.

A collection of military tents were established alongside the aircraft to allow officials to work.

Around a week after the Merlin first came down, the Ministry of Defence said the craft’s rotor blades needed to be replaced.

It is understood a low-loader was due to be called in to take the helicopter away and return it to base. However, because of the boggy ground in the farmer’s field, it was deemed impossible to safely recover the aircraft, the Echo understands.

As a result, a full repair of the craft needed to take place in the Dorset field to allow it to fly under its own power.

The Merlin was finally able to return to base on Thursday. The cost of such a helicopter is understood to be around £25 million.

Royal Navy Merlins have seen action in the Caribbean and Iraq. They can safely carry 30 seated troops, or 45 standing fully equipped combat troops, as well as three to four crew. The diameter of the main rotor is 18.59 metres, and the helicopter has a cruising speed of 173 mph.