DH - Defence Helicopter

Merlin Mk2s complete exercise March Hare

12th April 2017 - 11:04 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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Three Merlin Mk2 helicopters of 820 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) have completed a fortnight-long training exercise off the north and west coasts of Scotland ahead of the delivery of the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carrier, the UK Royal Navy announced on 10 April.

The helicopters will be the first to fly on and off the 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier during sea trials in the North Sea. The 820 Squadron's role will be to safeguard the vessel from submarine threats.

Three Merlin Mk2 helicopters and the bulk of 820 Squadron flew to RAF Lossiemouth for exercise March Hare. March Hare was divided into two phases: the first week at Lossiemouth and the second week in the regular surroundings of HMS Gannet in Prestwick on the west coast.

During the first week, the crew studied the waters, shores and terrain of the Moray Firth and northern foothills of the Grampians, and executed search and rescue training with the RNLI's Buckie lifeboat crew and the rescuers of the Moray Inshore Rescue Organisation.

Exercises on the west coast involved naval assets on, under and over the sea, with the Merlins up against submarine commanders undergoing the Royal Navy's Submarine Command Course known as Perisher.

820 NAS took the opportunity to exercise the ripple technique, ensuring one Merlin Mk2 is always deployed on-sight, hunting a submarine, while other Merlins are on their way out to, or back from, pinging, or on being refuelled back at base.

March Hare also tested the squadron's logistical legs, operating 700 miles from the squadron's usual base.

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