UK — Last training on the Navy’s Merlin Mk1 helicopter

The final batch of Mer­lin air­crew are now com­plet­ing years of ardu­ous train­ing off the Cor­nish coast on the Mer­lin Mk1 heli­copter before the Fleet Air Arm gets the next-gen­er­a­tion ver­sion of the heli­copter.

 -
A 824 Naval Air Squadron Mer­lin Mk1 heli­copter [Pic­ture: LA(Phot) Dave Ster­ratt, Crown Copyright/MOD 2012]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Eigh­teen trainee pilots, observers and air­crew­men from 824 Naval Air Squadron at Roy­al Naval Air Sta­tion Cul­drose are spend­ing five weeks fly­ing on, off and around avi­a­tion train­ing ship Roy­al Fleet Aux­il­iary ves­sel Argus. They are the last crews to train on the Mk1 vari­ant of the air­craft before the Mer­lin Mk2 joins the Fleet Air Arm lat­er this year.

The trainees have com­plet­ed between two and four years of train­ing and instruc­tion both on sim­u­la­tors and on the gen­uine arti­cle.

But their stint on the 28,000-tonne train­ing ship — which dou­bles as the Navy’s casu­al­ty treat­ment ves­sel in times of war — is their first taste of oper­at­ing the Mer­lin, which is the main­stay of the Roy­al Navy’s anti-sub­ma­rine and counter-pira­cy oper­a­tions around the world.

See the Gallery at Relat­ed Links for more images of naval per­son­nel train­ing on Mer­lin heli­copters on board RFA Argus.

Aboard Argus, the trainees go from the basics of land­ing on and tak­ing off from a flight deck at sea to prac­tis­ing search and res­cue drills, then on to tac­ti­cal mis­sions such as hunt­ing sub­marines or sur­face ships.

Stu­dent pilot Sub-Lieu­tenant Will Legge said:

“You learn so much more in the real world than you do on a sim­u­la­tion. The real world pro­vides 100 times more vari­a­tion, things that you can nev­er plan.

“And if things go wrong, you can­not just press ‘reset’.

“Com­plet­ing the first deck land­ing is a mile­stone. You are pret­ty ner­vous before­hand, because the deck looks tiny.”

Sea Flight Com­man­der and senior 824 Naval Air Squadron instruc­tor aboard RFA Argus, Lieu­tenant Com­man­der Mike Cur­rie, said of the five-week train­ing spell:

“This is where we put into prac­tice all that has been taught pre­vi­ous­ly — it is almost the final hur­dle.

“You have to have a cer­tain tem­pera­ment to suc­ceed, a cer­tain Fleet Air Arm ethos, but the pilots, observers, air­crew­men, they are all indi­vid­u­als. There’s no one trait and we’re cer­tain­ly not try­ing to pro­duce car­bon copies of our­selves.”

Com­man­der Gavin Richard­son, 824 Naval Air Squadron’s Com­mand­ing Offi­cer, added:

“The embarked peri­od is what the squadron team effort works toward.

“It is the crown­ing glo­ry of a long and ardu­ous road for our stu­dents which pro­vides the oppor­tu­ni­ty to show the invest­ment was worth­while and that they have meta­mor­phosed into naval avi­a­tors, able to oper­ate and fly from that most demand­ing envi­ron­ment — the sea.”

If the stu­dents come through the train­ing, they will earn their wings in June and go on to join one of three front line Mer­lin squadrons based at Cul­drose.

In doing so, they will be the last of scores of Mer­lin crews to pass through the squadron and the impres­sive sim­u­la­tor and train­ing com­plex at the air sta­tion on the Lizard Penin­su­la since the late 1990s.

Mer­lin was orig­i­nal­ly intro­duced as a sub­ma­rine hunter to replace the ven­er­a­ble Sea King. It has since grown into a gen­er­al pur­pose heli­copter capa­ble of inter­dict­ing pirates and drug run­ners, sav­ing the lives of strick­en mariners, and deliv­er­ing stores and peo­ple, as well as ful­fill­ing its orig­i­nal anti-sub­ma­rine mis­sion.

The first next-gen­er­a­tion naval Mer­lin, the Mk2, arrives in Corn­wall this sum­mer. Although out­ward­ly the heli­copter is almost iden­ti­cal, inside the cock­pit and the com­mand con­soles are entire­ly new:

“There is no com­par­i­son with oth­er air­craft out there,” said Lieu­tenant Com­man­der Cur­rie, who has 1,800 Mer­lin fly­ing hours under his belt.

“It’s pret­ty awe­some when it comes to what it can do — espe­cial­ly the vari­ety.

“Things have moved on since the Mk1. It has served us well — and still serves us well — but it’s time to move on.”

824 Naval Air Squadron will learn the ins and outs of the new heli­copters first before the rest of the Mer­lin com­mu­ni­ty gets to grip with them and it begins front line deploy­ments.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →