Culdrose Merlins head for African deployment
Royal Navy Merlin helicopters from RNAS Culdrose will join RFA Argus to help stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa.
Three Merlin Mk 2s from 820 Naval Air Squadron will join Argus and sail to Sierra Leone to support UK’s growing effort on land to deal with the outbreak of the disease.
After a meeting of the Government’s COBR emergency committee – chaired by Prime Minister David Cameron – to discuss the worsening virus crisis in Africa, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced that theUKarmed forces were ramping up their efforts. The helicopters and auxiliary ship will be used first and foremost to help medical efforts on land, wherevBritain’s Armed Forces are playing a pivotal role in tackling the crisis.
Mr Fallon said more troops would be dispatched to support engineers, logisticians and planners already on the ground to support the construction of the Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Unit, while additional personnel are being sent to support an Ebola training facility run by the World Health Organisation.
With the commitment of the extra resources, more than 750 British Servicemen and women will be involved in the effort to curb the spread of the disease. Personnel from RNAS Culdrose will be joined on RFA Argus by Royal Marines of 1 Assault Group to provide protection for the ship and the personnel aboard.
Captain Mark Garratt, Commanding Officer of Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose said:
“Culdrose will embark three Merlin Mark 2 helicopters and 80 personnel from 820 Naval Air Squadron as well as a 50 strong cadre of the Maritime Aviation Support Force onboard RFA Argus as she deploys to the West coast of Africa.
“The inherent flexibility of the Merlin, the Navy’s latest Anti Submarine helicopter, acting in a transport and utility role from afloat, will mean that medical operations ashore can be fully supported. Our people are fully committed to this vital role.”
Thanks to her impressive medical facilities – including wards for up to 100 patients, an operating theatre and intensive care/high dependency units – Argus also has the capacity to support medical efforts currently provided by UK personnel ashore in Sierra Leone.
“The deployment of RFA Argus is a clear sign of the British Government’s commitment to the region and will underpin operations ashore. We’ll be embarking Culdrose-based Merlin helicopters and Royal Marine Commandos before heading down to West Africa,” said Capt David Eagles RFA Argus’ Commanding Officer.
“The Royal Fleet Auxiliary and Royal Navy sailors under my charge are eager to help in whatever way they can. To command such a unique and capable ship as Argus, manned by the best ship’s company one could ever wish for is quite simply an enormous privilege.”
Mr Fallon said the Ebola outbreak posed “a global threat to public health” and was vital that theUK remains at the forefront of responding to the epidemic.
He continued: “Following today’s meeting we are stepping up significantly the UK’s contribution and leadership in work to tackle the outbreak, on land, in the air and at sea.
“At the heart of the package is the commitment to provide more than 750 personnel to help with the establishment of Ebola Treatment Centres and an Ebola Training Academy. We are deploying troops, helicopters and a ship – Army medics and Merlin helicopters, supported by RFA Argus to provide direct support and reassurance.”