Merlin joins Illustrious on Cougar 13 deployment
A Merlin MK1 from 829 Naval Air Squadron is flying the flag for Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose on a show of Maritime strength with the Response Force Task Group, (RFTG) as part of the Navy’s Cougar 13 deployment.
Based onboard the Amphibious Commando Helicopter Carrier HMS Illustrious, the deployment to the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Gulf and Horn of Africa will see the 829 NAS aircraft work alongside Royal Marines of 42 Commando RM and 3 Commando brigade from Plymouth.
The RFTG will also take part in multinational exercises across the Gulf region, working with maritime and land Units from many countries.
Usually based on the much smaller ship, HMS St Albans, a Type 23 Frigate currently undergoing a major equipment upgrade.
The Merlin flight of four aircrew, ten engineers and one Leading Aircraft Controller, has jumped ship for the four month Cougar 13 deployment; and they are certainly seeing things differently from their larger home.
“HMS Illustrious is one of the Royal Navy’s biggest ships,” said Lt Jon Maumy, Flight Pilot.
“We have worked with both Lynx Mk 7 and 8 and are looking forward to operating with Sea Kings from Commando Helicopter Force and Apaches from the Arm Air Corps and learning how they operate. Certainly the highlight so far has been taking part in Exercise Albanian Lion when we supported 3 Commando Brigade as they stormed ashore.”
Having exercised with the Royal Marines off the coast of Albania and Greece, the Response Force Task Group will be sailing on to its next destination, further towards the Arabian Gulf and more exercises before the task group return to UK waters later this year.
The Cougar 13 deployment will operate in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Gulf, and Horn of Africa.
It involves exercising with partner nations, and will show the UK Armed Forces’ capacity to project an effective maritime component anywhere in the world as part of the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group, commanded by Commodore Paddy McAlpine OBE ADC Royal Navy.
The RFTG is the United Kingdom’s high readiness maritime force, comprising ships, submarines, aircraft and a landing force of Royal Marines, at short notice to act in response to any contingency tasking if required.