Commando pilots lift tonnes of logs to mountain shelters

Topic: Fighting armsFleet Air Arm Storyline: Cold Weather Training

Commando pilots tested themselves against the harsh Arctic by delivering nine tonnes of logs to remote mountain cabins in the wilds of northern Norway.

Merlin helicopters from Commando Helicopter Force’s 845 Naval Air Squadron fly in the sub-zero skies every year above the Arctic on Exercise Clockwork, becoming a familiar sight to locals around Bardufoss in Troms and Finnmark county.

To thank Norwegians for their yearly hospitality, the squadron lifted firewood logs to two mountain cabins, known as ‘Dividalshyttene’, which provide hikers and skiers with a place to stay for one or two nights in the mountains.

The cabins are also used in emergencies and are owned by Troms Turlag, a hiking association in the north of the country.

Access to the cabins is severely restricted, so it was up to the Merlins to airlift 30 sacks of the logs – a two-year supply for each dwelling – to their locations high in the mountains. 

In all 15 underslung loads weighing 600kg apiece – nine tonnes in total – were carried by the helicopters over nine miles to the cabins. 

The log deliveries, while helping the local community, were also a great workout for the Merlin crews and the Mobile Air Operations Team, who are specialists trained in selecting landing sites for the Merlins and Wildcats of Commando Helicopter Force. 

The logs needed to be lifted from a tight and elevated forest before making the flight to their mountainside drop-off points.

Three troop-carrying Merlins, and four Wildcats (three battlefield variants, one maritime model more used to operating from frigates and destroyers) are currently supporting hundreds of Royal Marines on the ground deep inside the Arctic Circle.

The helicopters are now turning their attentions to large-scale Norwegian-led exercises, during which they will work in their specialist role alongside Royal Marines and operate with HMS Albion and RFA Mounts Bay, which are playing a key role in the amphibious training taking place on Exercise Cold Response.