Merlin meets Defender
A Merlin helicopter Flight from Royal navy Air Station Culdrose has completed the first ever embarkation on the Navy’s newest Warship, the Type 45 Destroyer HMS Defender.
The Flight from 829 Naval Air Squadron is dedicated to small ship’s operations and equipped with the Merlin HM MK 1 helicopter; the most advanced submarine hunter in the world.
829 NAS, known as ‘the Kingfishers’ from its distinguished badge, provide five Merlin Flights that can operate onboard the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates. A dedicated Merlin Flight consists of one helicopter, five aircrew and nine maintainers as well as all the equipment they need to function away from their parent air station anywhere in the world.
A Warship and Merlin make a powerful team, able to seek, fix and destroy submarines but can be called upon to carry out a much wider range of duties. Maritime surveillance missions, search for pirates, smugglers and drug runners: all of which live up to the squadron motto ‘Non effugient’ – They shall not escape.
This 12 week deployment on HMS Defender was the first of its kind and allowed the Culdrose squadron personnel a chance to see how impressive the new Type 45 Destroyers are close up. The Ship was undergoing an assessment by Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) at Devonport and put through her paces in a rigorous series of testing and emergency scenarios which also involved the 829 NAS Flight.
“Embarking onto Defender has proved an exciting time,” said Lieutenant Mark Gilbert, Flight commander of the detachment. “The FOST team really threw everything at the Ship, assessing her ability to safely operate at sea and undertake increasingly complex serials, including ship emergencies and tactical scenarios involving threats from Land, Air, Surface and sub-Surface beneath the waves.”
To some this was not only their first time on HMS Defender but their first time at Sea. Air Engineering Technician Matt Nethercott is the Flights youngest and newest member. “This has been my first Ship since joining the Royal navy. The Ship’s company have made us feel really welcome. HMS Defender itself has some fantastic and impressive facilities on board, it’s a big Ship! It’s been hard work at times, but there’s a great sense of achievement when we get the aircraft up and it lands back on deck after contributing successfully to the Ship’s exercises.”
The Flight is currently disembarked briefly to its home Base at RNAS Culdrose in West Cornwall before they set off again with all their equipment to another Type 45 Destroyer, HMS Dauntless for further FOST Assessments in the New Year.