HMS Sutherland's Merlin on its way home
A team from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose is on its way home from the Indian Ocean following a six month deployment helping in the fight against piracy and people and drug trafficking. The sailors will be home with their families by Christmas.
HMS Sutherland has been home for the past six months to the Aircrew and engineers from a group of personnel from 829 Naval Air Squadron. In summer, the ‘Flight’ from Culdrose sailed to the Indian Ocean and the Gulf with their Merlin helicopter to take part in multi-national tasking in the region. Their mission was to assist in ‘Counter Piracy Operations’ as well as surveillance for counter drug, people and weapon trafficking.
The team from Culdrose, headed by Lieutenant Earl Kingston, has been heavily involved with patrolling thousands of miles of ocean in temperatures reaching over 40 degrees C, ensuring the safe passage of vessels as they make their way through some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
It has been a very busy deployment for the Cornish-based personnel. With their two Royal Marines embarked , the Aircrew have scoured shorelines and open oceans for suspicious vessels, provided protection for boarding operations, conducted lifting of stores from Replenishment Ships and have airlifted various compassionate cases into a variety of different countries for onwards travel.
The Flight’s engineers have had a particularly challenging time, having to maintain the aircraft in hangar temperatures of over 50 degrees and 90% humidity. Not only does the heat and humidity make it very difficult to work on a very hot aircraft, but the conditions have a detrimental effect on many of the helicopter’s sensors and presented the team with challenges not normally experienced at the Flight’s Cornish home.
Both Ship and Flight have conducted many port visits ranging from Dubai in UAE to Tanzania in Africa, where they hosted visits by foreign dignitaries, local schools, and host nation forces. They have helped restore an orphanage, visited the lost city of Petra, been invited to watch the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and played various football matches with local teams. They also had a visit from King Neptune as the ship crossed the equator on her passage down to Tanzania.
Still on Maritime Security Operations, the Merlin flight onboard HMS SUTHERLAND is now making her way home through the Mediterranean where her Ship’s Company will have the chance to relax for a few days in Malta before arriving home just before Christmas.
They were relieved by another Culdrose-based ‘Flight’ onboard HMS Northumberland who will now perform operations in the Gulf for the next six months.