Saturday, September 4, 2010
Royal Navy To Use Merlin’s Magic To Fight Pirates
02 September 2010 -- A Royal Navy Helicopter Squadron is deploying to the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden to carry out specialist anti-piracy operations over the coming months. Personnel from 820 Naval Air Squadron including Aircrew and Engineers and their Merlin helicopter, will be embarked on a Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship (RFA Fort Victoria) and will be equipped to counter the threat of piracy and maritime terrorism.
Piracy in the Gulf region and the Indian Ocean has grown more prevalent in recent years and the Royal Navy is committed to protecting the UK national interests and those of the Commonwealth and its allies overseas. The international anti-piracy efforts are co-ordinated by the Combined Maritime Force (CMF) based in Bahrain.
Using state-of-the-art sensors and communications equipment, the Merlin helicopter will provide surveillance of shipping routes and will detect and deter pirate activity as well as providing the capability to board and search vessels. The aircraft, in conjunction with Royal Naval ships in the region, will also have the ability to use force to neutralise any threat to commercial and leisure vessels in the area.
The primary role of the Merlin helicopter, the Royal Navy’s most modern aircraft, is Anti Submarine warfare, however due to its size, speed and proven technological capability, this versatile aircraft is also used in Maritime Security operations. The helicopter is large enough to carry Royal Marines for sniper operations and boarding via fast roping, both which are vital to counter the threat of pirates, and it is fitted with heavy duty machine guns and thermal imaging equipment.
“Deploying one of the most capable and versatile helicopters in the world to this region will enhance the Royal Navy’s ability to counter the constant threat that piracy poses to vessels of all nations,” said Lieutenant Commander Neil Brian, Deputy Force Commander of the Merlin Helicopter Force. “All Royal Navy Merlin helicopter crews are trained in Maritime Security Operations and having the opportunity to contribute to the ongoing work of the Combined Maritime Force demonstrates the Royal Navy’s ability to protect our interests overseas”.
One of Europe’s largest helicopter bases, RNAS Culdrose delivers highly capable Helicopter Squadrons specialising in Anti-Submarine Warfare, Anti-Surface Warfare and Airborne Surveillance and Control. Its frontline Squadrons are deployed to ships all over the world to support the Royal Navy in its global operations. These include tasking in Afghanistan, around the Horn of Africa and the Gulf regions, and the Indian Ocean. Deployments to the Far East, the Eastern Seaboard of the USA, the north and south Atlantic are also regular destinations for the frontline Squadrons.
Back at the Air Station, trainee Aircrew, Engineers, Air Traffic Controllers, Fire-fighters and Flight Deck crews undergo intensive training prior to joining Naval Air Squadrons for duties at sea. Additionally, the ‘Search and Rescue’ Squadron is on constant standby 365-days a year to react to emergencies throughout the Southwest region. Its red and grey helicopters can be seen braving all types of weather responding to calls for help on land and sea.