Merlin Helicopter Force
Merlin Helicopter Force, based at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall, comprises four squadrons. 814NAS and 829 NAS using Merlin Mk1 helicopters; 820 NAS, 824 NAS operating Merlin Mk2 helicopters.
Merlin is the world’s most potent submarine hunting helicopter. It has been in service with the Fleet Air Arm since the late 1990s and on the front line since 2000. Its job is to find – and if necessary destroy – enemy submarines using state-of-the-art sonar buoys and Sting Ray torpedoes. There are more than 40 Merlins in service with the Fleet Air Arm in training and front-line squadrons. These are in the middle of a £750m upgrade to turn the Merlin Mk1 into the Merlin Mk2 which has more powerful computer systems and is easier for aircrew to operate. On 15 July 2014, Merlin Mk2s entered operational service four months ahead of schedule.
814 Naval Air Squadron – the Flying Tigers (from its badge) – flies from ships and air bases around the world shielding the Fleet from submarines.
820 Naval Air Squadron takes turns with its sister squadron 814 to support the international effort against illegal activities on the high seas east of Suez – that’s piracy, people-trafficking, smuggling, drug-running and terrorism.
829 Naval Air Squadron – the Kingfishers – provides the Navy’s Type 23 frigates with the Merlin helicopters they need to operate around the world. It provides dedicated Merlin ‘flights’ – that’s one helicopter, a full complement of aircrew (two pilots, one observer, and one aircrewman) and a nine-strong maintenance team.
824 Naval Air Squadron feeds the three front-line 814, 820 & 829 Merlin squadrons with the men and women needed to fly and maintain the world’s No.1 anti-submarine helicopter. In July 2012, 824 NAS accepted the first five Merlin Mk2 helicopters to begin training personnel in their use.