Royal Navy flies crucial sorties into Honduras following hurricane devastation

Royal Navy helicopters have flown vital reconnaissance missions over devastated Honduras as relief operations continue in the wake of Hurricane Eta and Iota.

Severe flooding and landslides following the two catastrophic storms have left millions of Hondurans displaced and isolated without food and clean water.

The Royal Navy recently deployed RFA Argus to the north east coast of the Central American nation to support the United States military in the ongoing disaster relief efforts.

The support ship is being used as a ‘lily pad’ by US Army Chinooks to drop aid supplies ashore, while the embarked air group of three Merlin helicopters and a Wildcat have been flying crucial information-gathering sorties over ravaged areas.

Pilots and aircrew from 845 and 815 Naval Air Squadrons are conducting reconnaissance flights, using their helicopters’ powerful sensors and specialist equipment to collect information.

Information collected is proving essential in building a clearer picture on the ground and helping decisions made by US Southern Command and Joint Task Force Bravo – who are coordinating operations – on where best to drop essential aid.

Commander Kate Muir, in command of the UK Task Group in the Caribbean, said: “RFA Argus and embarked Royal Navy personnel are supporting US helicopters and conducting aerial surveys of hurricane damage.

“This allows prioritisation of emergency relief stores to the areas that need it most, usually remote areas that have been cut off by flooding and landslides.

“The information we are providing is proving essential to relief operations, and they are critical to responding quickly to help the people of Honduras.”

 

The information we are providing is proving essential to relief operations, and they are critical to responding quickly to help the people of Honduras.

Commander Kate Muir

Commanding Officer of RFA Argus, Captain Kevin Rimell, added: “We’ve been asked to provide a refueling facility for the US heavy-lift helicopters.

“The CH47 Chinooks have a huge lift capacity and a long endurance, but they need lots of fuel from us which lets them move around the region and move the much-needed supplies to those areas that are in desperate need.

“We are able to provide them this support as they don’t have those facilities in the region themselves.”

Along with the array of reconnaissance kit aboard the Merlins and Wildcat, Crisis Response Troop from 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines have been using a tool called a Disaster Relief Operation Position Logger, or ‘DROP Logger’, to aid ongoing efforts.

Using a tablet loaded with this software, the personnel from 24 Commando Royal Engineers can quickly map the ground below from an aircraft, identifying areas that are most in need and sharing it seamlessly with those coordinating relief efforts.

Alongside military assistance, the UK is providing vital disaster recovery kit – including shelter, cooking and sanitation kits – and £1m to the Red Cross emergency appeal.

Argus is well equipped to deal with crises with her spacious flight deck and versatile crew of sailors, commandos, air crew and engineers.

The ship has been deployed to the Caribbean since April along with HMS Medway to provide support to British Overseas Territories during hurricane season and carry out counter-narcotics operations.

Patrol ship HMS Medway is a permanent presence in Caribbean waters and remains in the region as Argus carries out tasks in Honduras.