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Merlin MK 2 approaching RFA Argus
Fireman from MASF on the Flight deck of RFA Argus
Flight Deck activity, 824 NAS Merlin MK 2 marshalled by MASF Aircraft Handler
RFA Argus off the coast of Cornwall

Maritime Aviation Support Force in RFA Argus

Published: 19 Dec 2013

Sailors from the Maritime Aviation Support Force (MASF) are delivering help and assistance to Fleet Air Arm squadron’s and units using the unique facilities onboard Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ship Argus. 

MASF has a team of 50 Air Engineers, Weapons Engineers, Air Operations personnel, Logisticians, Chef’s, Aircraft Handlers and Medical staff on board RFA Argus. They are crucial in delivering Argus’s role as the Fleets Primary Casualty Receiving Ship (PCRS) as well as her secondary role as the role as the Royal Navy’s Aviation Training Ship (ATS). 

Led by a Senior Naval Officer (SNO) Lieutenant Commander Paul Morris, who is all too aware of their role and how busy the Ship can be. “Since coming out of refit it’s been non-stop for us,” said Paul. “After Operational Sea Training at Devonport we have embarked 848 NAS Sea Kings from the Junglie world and 771 NAS SAR Sea Kings from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose. We’ve also had the Wildcat onboard practicing deck landings for a two week slot before Merlin MK 2’s of 824 and 820 NAS. Slotted in between those we had a full medical facility run-out with the PCRS role exercised and an additional 290 souls-on-board.” 

All this requires the full attention of MASF; who have to support the different characteristics and requirements of aircraft and Units, turning their hands to some areas that don’t just involve aviation. The hospital onboard has the ability to cope with major casualties and contains a 100 bed facility for immediate care complete with operating theatres and an intensive care unit. Maintaining this is a Nursing Officer and two senior rate Medical assistants who are all part of the MASF organisation. 

The Falmouth based RFA Argus entered service in 1988 and deployed to the Gulf in 1991 for service on Operation Granby as the PCRS for British forces deployed in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. She also deployed to the Adriatic in 1993 and again in 1999 supporting British operations in Bosnia and Kosovo, then Sierra Leone where she utilised her Medical role off the coast of Freetownin 2000. In 2003 she deployed again to the Gulf to support British Amphibious operations during the assault onto the Al Faw peninsular, Iraq as part of Operation Telic. 

RFA Argus also has the ability to embark Royal Marines and aircraft to assist in Humanitarian and Disaster relief missions across the world.

“With full aviation support facilities and room to accommodate large numbers we can expect to deploy anywhere,” continued Lt Cdr Paul Morris, SNO. “MASF are able to adapt to a variety of roles whether it is aviation related or expertise on how Argus operates. We’ve proved ourselves on operations off the coast of Libya, disaster relief missions in the Caribbean and during conflict.”


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