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Merlin firing flares
Merlin above HMS Northumberland

Merlin flares light up the sky

Published: 21 Jan 2013

AS THE sun goes down over the Indian Ocean, HMS Northumberland’s Merlin sends more than 100 flares cascading through the sky.

In the middle of her counter-piracy and counter-drugs work, the Devonport-based frigate’s helicopter tested one of the many tricks in her box – her flares.

These are installed to decoy incoming heat-seeking missiles – fired either by other aircraft, or ground-based threats - drawing them away from the helicopter’s engines on to a much hotter target.

A crew of four Fleet Air Arm personnel – two pilots, one observer and one aircrewman – plus nine engineers and technicians, and an ‘aircraft controller’, who oversee sorties from Northumberland’s operations room in the bowels of the frigate, are responsible for the helicopter, which is embarked for the duration of the deployment.

The Merlin is one of several Flights (in this case 05) provided by 829 Naval Air Squadron in Culdrose, Cornwa ll, to Type 23 frigates for operations around the globe.

HMS Northumberland took over from her sister HMS Sutherland at the end of November and will be prowling some of the 2½ million square miles of sea – that’s more than eight times the size of the North Sea – which is the domain of the international maritime security effort in the region until the spring.


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