829NAS Merlin Returns Home From Drugs and Pirate Busting
The drug and pirate-busting Merlin helicopter of HMS Westminster is safely back home at Culdrose after seven months making a 'tangible' difference in the Indian Ocean. 02 Flight of 829 Naval Air Squadron, callsign Red Bull, played a key role in pirate busts and anti-drug smuggling missions.
Having completed a seven month mission in the Middle East and the Indian Ocean, the Merlin Helicopter Flight arrived home this week having handed over their duties to the Naval Aviators of ‘03 Flight’ onboard HMS Sutherland.
During the Flight's time onboard, the ship disrupted three groups of suspected pirates, seized £14m worth of heroin from smugglers in the Indian Ocean, conducted security patrols in the Arabian Gulf and Indian Ocean, paid goodwill visits across the region from Aqaba in Jordan to Dar-es-Salam in Tanzania, and participated in numerous exercises with Coalition and Allied forces in the region.
Speaking of the Flight’s time ‘on task’, Lieutenant Chris Suckling said: “I am really proud of all that the Flight has accomplished during this deployment. Seven months is a long time to be away from home and we’ve faced numerous challenges along the way. To know that we have had a tangible effect in making the UK’s interests more secure in our areas of operation is a fantastic feeling.”
The helicopter, with its two pilots, an observer and an aircrewman, backed up by a team of maintainers/mechanics and a flight controller, has flown more than 150 sorties totalling over 270 hours in the last seven months. Its last mission was to fly over HMS Westminster when she returned to Portsmouth Naval Base on Monday.
The Merlin Mk1 is a state of the art, all weather, day and night maritime patrol helicopter. Originally designed for Anti Submarine Warfare, her ability to re-role and provide support to a plethora of different tasks make her an invaluable asset to any Ship. The aircraft’s sophisticated sensors, impressive endurance and range create a formidable force in the continued effort to protect the Nation’s interests and disrupt piracy.