Search-and-rescue teams put through their paces

Anyone fancy volunteering to be stranded in the middle of the Atlantic?

No, well I suppose I’ll have to do it.

And so the training officer, Lieutenant Jonathan ‘Pony’ Moore, from 845 NAS found himself being unceremoniously dumped into the sea – although the ocean was 30oC and very calm, and he had a liferaft.

He was the focus of a ‘downed pilot’ scenario, aimed to test the rescue skills of both HMS Queen Elizabeth and the Commando Helicopter Force during the Westlant 19 deployment.

The duty search-and-rescue aircraft from 845 NAS was scrambled to rescue the downed pilot. Once on scene, the aircraft was able to use its onboard equipment as well as the put the full sea-search skills of the crew to the test to 'rescue' the survivor.

Life support jackets, single seat lif rafts and a range of rescue beacons were tested, including the COSPAS-SARSAT.

Testing the communication lines from the beacon back to the ship, aircrew then launched and honed onto the ‘downed pilot’s’ beacon to swoop in and pick him up. 

Aircrew are taught how to escape from the aircraft and surface, along with how to assist with their own extraction

Chief Petty Officer Survival Equipment Technician Paul Netherway

“This training was invaluable both to the  carrier’s survival equipment section, proving they could deliver this training in the future from the carrier and further support the aircrew training requirements whilst away from the UK, and also to the Squadron as they further hone their Deployed Search-and-Rescue skills and explore the impressive capabilities of their new aircraft, the Merlin Mk4.” Said Chief Petty Officer Survival Equipment Technician Paul Netherway

The search-and-rescue Merlin is at an hour’s notice to cover the carrier and her task group, comprising HMS Dragon, HMS Northumberland and RFA Tideforce.

845 NAS have three Merlins on board the carrier, with B-Flight operating under the call sign of Furious Flight, so named after HMS Furious, the first British warship on which a deck landing was conducted at sea.