Aircrewmen train with Merlin Mk2
Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Aircrewmen training at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose has taken on a new dimension with the arrival of Merlin MK 2.
824 Naval Air Squadron are responsible for training men and women needed to fly and maintain the Merlin MK 2, the Royal Navy’s largest and the world’s No.1 anti-submarine helicopter. It comprises of two elements, 824 HQ and the Merlin Training Facility (MTF) that trains students with varying degrees of aviation experience ranging from newbie pilots, observers, aircrewman and engineers to those converting from a range of aircraft types.
Aircrewmen selected for ASW training join 824 NAS for a twelve week Initial Acoustic Course, which is based around the MTF. Here they learn about sonar and sensor operations, submarine acoustic signatures, where they operate and their countries of origin. “The Acoustic course is pretty intense and students have to really apply themselves, said Chief Aircrewman Jay O’Donnell, 824 Sqn Chief Aircrewman and senior instructor. “ This after all is what we’re all about: we are here to hunt Submarines! This sets them up for the rest of their 18 month long course.”
Students arriving at RNAS Culdrose would have already been put through their paces at RAF Shawbury where aptitude and grading tests are held along with some instruction and assessment of ASW principles. From the MTF they move up to the flight-line and begin the flying part of their training. Active and Passive ASW search and prosecution techniques are taught as well as submarine surface searches, Search and Rescue training and load lifting.
But 824 NAS is not just about training students, it’s also the ‘centre of excellence’ for all things ASW and Merlin MK 2 is demonstrating a more than capable challenge for its Aircrewmen. It’s proving to be a remarkably capable aircraft and some considerable steps further on from the Merlin MK 1.
The instructors have all had to learn the aircraft, teach it to each other before getting to a level where they’re able to teach it to others. An in-depth knowledge of its new systems and technology changes are a big jump from what has been before and now a huge onus is put on the Aircrewman role, specifically with the Acoustics which has gone through a considerable upgrade.
“Part of that training for Staff instructors takes place at Sea onboard Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ship Argus,” continued CPO Jay O’Donnell. “We use time aboard to work up the close crew co-operation between the pilots, observers and Aircrewmen. With all new aircraft we adopted a policy of ‘Crawl - Walk - Run’, slowly building up to a fully functioning crew. A period like this at Sea allows us to develop crew procedures which we can pass onto others. No matter how much we use technology and simulators at RNAS Culdrose, a pitching and rolling deck will always be where we need to operate from.”