FAA Merlins prepare for exercise in the Mediterranean
Merlin helicopters are preparing to join NATO forces in the Mediterraneanto take part in large scale Anti-Submarine exercise at the end of February.
Personnel from two Naval Air Squadrons, based at Royal Navy Air Station Culdrose near Helston, will be heading to Sicily to take part in NATO’s largest Anti-submarine exercise: Exercise Proud Manta. The 75 strong team, from 829 and 814 Naval Air Squadrons, will consist of Pilots, Observers, Aircrewmen and Engineers as well as the Logisticians required to support the three Merlin Mk1 helicopters making the 1400 mile journey across Europe to their new temporary base at US Naval Air Station Sigonella in Eastern Sicily.
Often under-sung in the current climate the main purpose of these Maritime Aviators will be to carry out specific training to promote the Royal Navy’s partnership with NATO and ensure a vital maritime role of providing security at sea.
An incredibly versatile helicopter, the Royal Navy’s Merlin Mk1 can be used in many roles from Search and Rescue to Counter Piracy and Drug Smuggling patrols. However its primary role is to conduct Anti-Submarine Warfare. This exercise will enable the aircrews taking part to demonstrate their submarine hunting skills as they work alongside ships, aircraft and submarines from the UK, USA, Canada, Norway, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece and Turkey. It will also provide vital experience and training for 829 Naval Air Squadron’s engineering teams who are more accustomed to operating from the more limited space onboard Type 23 Frigates.
The Commanding Officer of 829 Naval Air Squadron, Commander Steve Windebank, who will be heading up the UK contingent, said “Taking part in an exercise such as this is a fantastic opportunity for our crews to practice their Anti-Submarine Warfare skills whilst working alongside our NATO partners.”
“The Merlin is one of the best Anti-Submarine aircraft in the world and this is a great chance to prove that we are equally capable operating from ships or land based airfields at home or abroad,” added Commander Windebank, “I hope that everyone involved will take something away from this years exercise.”
The exercise is programmed to last until mid March, when the crews will return to the UK to continue supporting operations from both land and sea.