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HMS Northumberland's Merlin flight of 829NAS

Northumberland Flight of 829NAS Heads East

Published: 13 Oct 2012

A team of aviators from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose have sailed on a deployment to the Gulf and Indian Ocean, continuing the fight against piracy and trafficking in the region.

The aircrew and engineers from 829 Naval Air Squadron will embark their Merlin helicopter on board HMS Northumberland to become an integral part of the ship's company for the next seven months. Following a period of work-up in the Mediterranean, the ship will come under multi-national tasking within the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Oman and the Gulf.

As part of her tasking she will assist in counter-piracy operations within the area as well as surveillance for counter-drug, people and weapon trafficking. She will also carry out tasking in support of the continuing stabilisation of the region.

Northumberland's Merlin flight is headed by their Observer, Lieutenant Commander Nick Bates. His team consists of two Pilots, an Aircrewman, nine Engineers and one aircraft controller, along with two Royal Marines who provide the aircraft’s sniper capability.

The Flight has been undertaking its ‘work-up’ period since June, completing a wide variety of courses, including a number of exercises with the ship. Starting with the basics of conducting Flying Operations from a frigate, then combining exercise fires, floods and simulated hostile attacks, all building up towards more complex multi-asset full scale conflicts, disaster relief training and scenarios similar to that expected within theatre. Alongside this, the Flight themselves have completed weapon and survival training, as well as theatre-specific flying both real world and utilising dynamic aircraft simulators.

Lieutenant Commander Bates said: “Both the flight and ship are extremely capable and well prepared to meet whatever tasks may be presented to us. As ever, our flexibility and the extensive training we have carried out will be key to our success.”

The flight will relieve another Culdrose-based flight onboard HMS Sutherland as she returns from her deployment in the Gulf.


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