Navy Merlin Mk 2 shows its magic

Crews from 824 Naval Air Squadron, who fly anti-submarine maritime patrol Merlin MK 2 helicopters based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall recently headed up to the shores of south-west Scotland to take part in SMCC 2-13, the submarine Commanding Officers qualifying course, also known as ‘Perisher’.

The Merlin MK 2, which entered service this year and is the Navy’s state-of-the-art Anti Submarine Warfare helicopter. It is the result of a ¾ billion pound Defence Equipment programme aimed at sustaining the Merlin’s global ability to hunt ever more capable and stealthy submarines.

With Cornwall shrouded in fog 824 Squadron detached its ‘Sea Flight’, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Paul ‘Bernie’ Winterton to operate from HMS Gannet, a Royal Naval outstation based at Prestwick airport in Ayrshire.

The crews flew their sorties from the Scottish base over the Clyde exercise areas that stretch from Belfast in the south up to the Isle of Bute at its northern end.

The exercise provided an ideal chance for the Merlin MK2 to prove itself against a very capable boat in challenging conditions.

Lieutenant Commander Paul Winterton RN

Their Mission: To scan the sea areas with the Merlin’s new active and passive sonar. Throughout the Merlin MK2’s above and below-surface surveillance systems were tested by the ‘Perisher’ submarine which was doing its utmost to stay undetected.

“The exercise provided an ideal chance for the Merlin MK2 to prove itself against a very capable boat in challenging conditions,” said 824 ‘Sea Flight’ Commander, Lt Cdr Winterton.

“The results are a good indication to us as operators that the system upgrade programme has taken the capability of Merlin in the right direction”.

824 NAS and ‘Sea Flight’ are busy preparing for the challenges of operating the Merlin from afloat this winter when they embark in Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ship Argus and in 2014 welcoming their first batch of new trainees for their operational conversion training on the Merlin MK 2.

820 NAS which will be the first front-line Merlin MK2 unit are presently undergoing their conversion courses on the Merlin Training Squadron and are due to receive their first airframe from manufacturer Agusta Westland later this year.