A Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose based Merlin Mk 1 flight is en route to the Philippines.
The seventeen strong team, currently embarked in Portsmouth based amphibious helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious, were in the latter stages of the UK Response Force Task Group’s Cougar 13 autumn deployment when re-tasked to join in disaster relief operations.
The Merlin flight of 829 Naval Air Squadron has been deployed from home since June. The ship and flight were in the midst of counter-piracy operations when the Prime Minister ordered HMS Illustrious and her embarked aircraft to head east to assist in the delivery of humanitarian aid.
The Merlin Mk 1 is the only RNAS Culdrose based aircraft presently embarked in HMS Illustrious or ‘Lusty’ as she is affectionately known by her crew.
The flight, made up of twelve technicians, four aircrew and one aircraft controller, had expected to be home in time for Christmas. They will now be returning to RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall in the New Year.
Lieutenant Matt ‘Sooty’ Sutcliffe Royal Navy is the flight’s senior pilot.
He said: “We are all looking forward to assisting in the relief effort and putting the hard training we have received over the years into good use.
“Being away for Christmas will clearly be hard on our families, but their support has been tremendous.
The Merlin is a fantastically capable aircraft and I have no doubt that we will be able to do a lot to help the people affected by Typhoon Haiyan.”
The Merlin Mk 1 is an all weather, day or night helicopter that is capable of conducting a range of roles which are well suited to the delivery of humanitarian aid including search and rescue, lift of over 2000 kgs of aid supplies, winching of personnel including stretchers from inaccessible areas or carrying people.
The helicopter is expected to be widely employed around the many islands in the Philippines affected by Typhoon Haiyan.
Whilst en route to the Philippines, the team will be spending time sharpen their skills to ensure they are at the top of their game by the time they reach the affected area.
Press Release, November 22, 2013; Image: Royal Navy