The Royal Navy warship HMS Somerset has operated with a helicopter for the first time in 12 months, after the ship underwent a maintenance period in dock.
The re-embarkation of a Merlin aircraft from 829 Naval Air Squadron, based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, Cornwall, represents an important milestone in the Type 23 frigates return to operational service.
The helicopter landed onboard HMS Somerset’s refurbished flight deck, successfully demonstrating the ship’s ability to work with an aircraft once again.
HMS Somerset’s Commanding Officer, Commander Mike Smith said:
“As a Naval aviator I am very proud to now command a ship capable of operating aircraft like the mighty Merlin.
“The return of 829 Naval Air Squadron’s aircraft and personnel, after a year-long separation, signifies the fact that HMS Somerset is swiftly regaining the capability required to return to front-line operations later this year.”
The Plymouth-based ship will routinely operate with a helicopter from now on, adding further versatility to the already potent capability following recent upgrades to fighting systems.
The Fleet Air Arm Merlin helicopter will significantly increase the range and manner in which HMS Somerset can exert its presence.
HMS Somerset was partnered with an 829 Squadron Merlin during its most recent operational deployment.
The combined capability was used to great effect during maritime surveillance missions and whilst searching for pirates, smugglers and drug-runners.
Whilst optimized for anti-submarine warfare, the helicopter can also provide support for disaster relief missions, as well as carrying passengers or cargo, and search and rescue.
Naval Today Staff, February 19, 2013; Image: Royal Navy