UK Merlin HC3 fleet completes Afghan deployment
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced that Britain’s fleet of Merlin HC3 helicopters have carried out their final operations in Afghanistan as UK troops withdraw from theatre.
The Merlin HC3 fleet has provided nearly four years of continuous support to British forces on the front line, primarily in a troop transport role in concert with the Chinook heavy lift helicopter. In that time the Merlin fleet has flown more than 18,000 hours in the harsh conditions of Helmand, transporting over 7,900 tonnes of kit and stores and more than 130,000 personnel.
According to the MoD, as the UK military has progressively handed over security responsibility to Afghan forces over the past three years the need for helicopter support of British bases has fallen by around 40 percent.
The number of British Bases in 2010 was 137. The number now stands at 11, and helicopter support hours are now totalling approximately 1,350 hours a month – down from 2,300 hours a month in 2010.
The Merlin fleet and its crews will now return to the UK to prepare for potential future roles.
The MoD said that the conclusion of Merlin operations in Afghanistan is the latest manifestation of the changing role of British and other international forces as the process of transition to an Afghan security lead continues apace. As Prime Minister David Cameron has already announced, the number the British forces in Afghanistan will fall to around 5,200 by the end of this year, from a peak of 9,500 in 2012.
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