I am thrilled that the Merlin will continue to serve Her Majesty’s Armed Forces with 845 Naval Air Squadron under Commander Punch and I wish them the best as they conquer the challenges of operating at sea.

Prince Michael of Kent

The Honorary Air Marshal of RAF Benson was joined by the head of the Fleet Air Arm, Rear Admiral Keith Blount and Air Vice Marshal Gavin Parker who commands the RAF’s No.2 Group. 

“This was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the successful transition of the Merlin Force from the Royal Air Force to the Royal Navy,” said Cdr Matt Punch, 845’s CO. “I am delighted and proud to take command of 845 Naval Air Squadron and look forward to an exciting and bright future.” 

His squadron stood down as a Sea King formation back in May, handing over the last of its veteran helicopters to 848 NAS who’ll see them out of service over the next eight months. In the meantime, the normally-Yeovilton-based 845 NAS are settling down in Oxfordshire until summer of 2016 as air and ground crews get to grips with an aircraft which is at least one generation ahead of the helicopter it replaces. And as they do, 28 will be turning into a Puma and Chinook training squadron preparing RAF fliers for front-line duties. 

Prince Michael told the RAF and RN personnel gathered at the air station near Oxford that the “impeccable” parade marking the Merlins’ transfer was “a highly impressive and fitting occasion”. He said the Royal Air Force could be proud of the Merlins’ accomplishments on active service over the past 15 years – the helicopters have deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Prince Michael continued: “I am also thrilled that the Merlin will continue to serve Her Majesty’s Armed Forces with 845 Naval Air Squadron under Commander Punch and I wish them the best as they conquer the challenges of operating at sea.” 

Wg Cdr Marty Lock, 28 Sqn’ Officer Commanding thanked personnel of both Services for their efforts. “It has been an extremely proud and special for me to take command of 28 Squadron. I know how hard so many people have worked to get to this point, both 845 taking over from 28 Squadron and also the hard work to ensure we have the Operational Conversion Unit ready.”

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