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Royal Navy’s Merlin Mk2s set for Exercise Deep Blue

3rd June 2014 - 13:33 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


The Royal Navy’s Merlin Mk2 helicopters will take part in Exercise Deep Blue in the Atlantic next week in what will be the first time the newly upgraded aircraft have been tested en masse.

The Merlin fleet is currently undergoing a £750 million upgrade programme that will see the aircraft transformed to meet the requirements of the Royal Navy until the end of the 2020s. The fleet is based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall. Two squadrons, including the first front-line unit, 820 Naval Air Squadron, have already been converted under the programme.

Exercise Deep Blue will see nine new Mk2s join HMS Illustrious and one Merlin embarked on HMS Westminster as part of preparations for operations from the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers, the first of which will be launched in July.

Carrier operations will be the main focus of Culdrose’s role once the aircraft carriers enter service. The Air Station has formed a ‘Carrier Air Group’ (CAG) to bring different squadrons, engineers and aircraft together. Exercise Deep Blue will be the first time that the Culdrose Merlin ‘CAG’ will deploy. 

Commander Ben Franklin, Commanding Officer of the Royal Navy’s Maritime Merlin Force, said: ‘For us, Deep Blue is a high tempo and multi-aircraft exercise which will test the new version of the Merlin but ultimately help us to prepare for operations onboard the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier.

‘Operating from sea and conducting Anti Submarine Warfare is what we do, but this exercise presents an opportunity to deploy en-masse.  We are using the exercise to practice multi-aircraft embarked operations and the engineering and logistical support necessary for this.’

Around 200 personnel will be involved in the exercise, including 18 crews each comprising of one pilot, one observer and one aircrewman. After a week and a half’s training around the UK by day and night, HMS Illustrious and her helicopters will move out into the expanse of the Atlantic for Deep Blue itself, which runs to mid to late June.


The Shephard News Team


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