The UK Royal Navy’s Merlin Mk 2 helicopters have re-joined aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to take part in Basic Sea Training and Carrier Sea Training in preparation for the carrier task group’s maiden operational deployment next year.
Aircrew, engineers, survival equipment technicians and logistics personnel from RNAS Culdrose-based 820 Naval Air Squadron (820 NAS), the “Carrier Squadron”, have embarked with helicopters as the ship is put through its paces by the Fleet Operational Sea Training (FOST, previously Flag Officer Sea Training) organization – a rigorous test of the ship’s safety, capability and readiness to deploy.
820 NAS Commanding Officer, Commander Ian “Reg” Varley said: “I have recently taken over Command of 820 NAS and I am hugely excited and privileged to be going to sea with my team.
“We were recently on call supporting the nation’s emergency services and we have just handed that over to another Culdrose squadron so that we can focus on our more traditional purpose which is to defend the UK’s aircraft carrier Task Group.
“In supporting our ships to operate anywhere they are required in the world, 820 NAS is trained and equipped to counter threats from submarines, warships and aircraft, skills that we call Anti-Submarine Warfare and Airborne Surveillance and Control.
“This training period onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth is a valuable part of sharpening our prowess and getting our people and equipment further integrated within the aircraft carrier.”
Keeping the sophisticated Merlin helicopter flying is no small task and is very much a team effort.
Leading Air Engineering Technician Danielle King who is one of the squadron’s aircraft engineers said: “The run up to a major training exercise is a busy period for us.
“The aim is to keep these aircraft capable of flying around the clock ensuring we can always keep an asset on station hunting the enemy submarine.
“Our number one priority is to keep the aircraft and its crew safe and that means we need to be meticulous in our aircraft maintenance as any mistakes could be costly.
“It’s hard work but a job I really enjoy doing.”