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815 Squadron Lynx nurtures French links

217 Flight joins FS Surcouf


A Lynx flight has arrived in Toulon to begin training with a French warship ready for a counter-piracy patrol. 217 Flight will spend the winter in the Indian Ocean with FS Surcouf which is taking part in Operation Atalanta, dealing with piracy and helping to safeguard food supplies sent by sea to Somalia as part of a UN food programme.

To be given the opportunity to learn the language and then spend an entire deployment operating with the French Navy is fantastic and my team is very excited
Lt Mike Curd, 815 Naval Air Squadron

THE first Royal Navy Lynx helicopter to join a French frigate on a full counter-piracy deployment has arrived on board the ship in Toulon.

As part of the initiative for the UK and French armed forces to work more closely together, the Lynx Mark 8 aircraft from Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton will deploy with the FS Surcouf as part of Operation Atalanta off the Horn of Africa.

Before the frigate deploys at the end of November, the 12 UK personnel from 217 Flight of 815 Naval Air Naval Air Squadron are undergoing four weeks of training, including an exercise to assess the warship’s capability for operations.

Flight Commander Lt Mike Curd said: “To be given the opportunity to learn the language and then spend an entire deployment operating with the French Navy is fantastic and my team is very excited, not only to be contributing to counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean, but to be doing it in such unusual circumstances.”

Lt Curd and Pilot Lt Chris Southworth are part of a team comprising of senior maintenance rating Chief Petty Officer Matthew Eccles and seven aircraft engineers along with two Royal Marine snipers.

Their training for this deployment included a 15-week French language course earlier this year to prepare them for life on board the French vessel.

This deployment falls under the terms of the Lancaster House Treaty in which UK and the France agreed military cooperation to assure their international commitments and strengthen their capability.

Operation Atalanta is part of the European Union’s ongoing Naval effort to disrupt and deter piracy in a bid to reduce its impact on international trade, maritime security and on the economic activities and security of countries in the region.

Commanding Officer of the Surcouf, Capitaine de Frégate Hughes Laine said: “I am very pleased to welcome 217 Flight to Surcouf and look forward to having the world-renowned capability of the Lynx Mk8 at my disposal for the deployment.

217 Flight will be away over Christmas and New Year returning to RNAS Yeovilton in March 2013.

Pictures: Sebastien Chenal, Marine Nationale

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