MERLIN MEETS JAPAN DEFENCE MINISTER
Japan’s Defence Minister, Gen Nakatani took the opportunity to inspect a Commando Helicopter Force Merlin Mk3 aircraft. Landing in the grounds of Wellington Barracks, the Merlin aircrew gave the Japanese delegation a tour of the CHF’s newest helicopter.
Gen Nakatani is visiting the UK with the Japanese Foreign Minister in the first ever Foreign and Defence Ministerial Meeting between the UK and Japan. Earlier, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon had met the Japanese Ministers to discuss global security situation, including the challenge posed by ISIL and international terrorism, and what more the UK and Japan can do together in the areas of defence and security to promote international peace and security.
Defence Minister Nakatani took office in December 2014, and as part of a wider organised Defence visit to the United Kingdom, he took the time to find out more about the Merlin Mk3 and the Commando Helicopter Force.
The visit allowed Gen Nakatani to learn more about the Joint Helicopter Command and the Commando Helicopter Forces capability, specifically how CHF integrates with other foreign nations’ Armed Forces.
The VIP tasking was flown by CHF aircrew from 28 (AC) Squadron, based in RAF Benson, and after the familiarisation tour of the aircraft, Defence Minister Nakatani and his party were taken on a short flight over central London, which included aerial views of the Olympic Park and the Tower of London.
Flt Lt John Plenty, the aircraft captain, said, “It was an enjoyable experience landing as large an aircraft as the Merlin at a small Helicopter Landing Site just a few hundred metres from Buckingham Palace. Despite the poor weather our VIP passengers seemed to thoroughly enjoy the experience of the Merlin aircraft. Overall it was one of the more unusual tasks we have completed recently, I and the crew felt privileged to have been a small part of the overall visit.”
The Merlin Mk3 has recently transitioned from the RAF to the Commando Helicopter Force and will replace the infamous Sea King over the next few years. The Merlin Mk3 will undergo a modification programme to adapt the aircraft for embarked operations in the maritime environment and will enhance the Command Helicopter Forces ability to deploy to any environment, anywhere in the world, across a spectrum of tasks, from humanitarian support and disaster relief to war fighting.
The Merlin is flown by 846 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) and 28 (AC) Squadron, with 845 NAS taking over the remaining aircraft when 28 (AC) Sqn disbands later this year. 846 NAS returns to Somerset in May this year bringing the Merlin to its new home in RNAS Yeovilton.