The 829 Naval Air Squadron Merlin from frigate HMS St Albans enjoyed a somewhat spacious change of scene when it arrived on the sprawling flight deck of the USS George H W Bush – the newest supercarrier in the US Navy’s arsenal.
The Merlin dropped in on the Bush, which is on her maiden deployment, as the helicopter’s mothership HMS St Albans conducted a ‘passex’ with the Bush carrier battle group and HMS Somerset.
The Saint and her sister Type 23 frigate Somerset are both east of Suez on maritime security operations – six months trying to strangle illegal activity on the high seas ranging from piracy to smuggling and even terrorism.
The Bush is supporting ongoing US operations in Iraq (Operation New Dawn) and Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) in addition to the wider east of Suez maritime security mission.
The three-day ‘passex’ – passage exercise – in the Arabian Sea saw the assorted warships, which on the American side included United States Ships Mitscher, Gettysburg and Springfield, conduct air defence exercises, fend off surface threats and practise anti-submarine skills.
As part of the link-up, St Albans Commanding Officer Cdr Tom Sharpe was invited aboard the Bush – as was Pakistan’s Capt Muhammad Naveed Akhtar, Commanding Officer of the destroyer PNS Shahjahan, also in the vicinity– to receive a gift of thanks from the carrier’s Commanding Officer Capt Brian Luther for their support: a framed photograph of the 100,000-ton flat-top.
Both Royal Navy vessels have now resumed their maritime security patrols. The Saint is due to return to Portsmouth before Christmas, while Somerset will be away from Devonport until the New Year.
Source: royalnavy, October 13, 2011