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A spell in Norway for Merlin as commando fliers look to the future

 A spell in Norway for Merlin as commando fliers look to the future
25 February 2016
Merlins from 845 Naval Air Squadron have arrived in Bardufoss in the Arctic Circle to get used to flying and operating in the harshest environment imaginable.

The helicopters have joined the Wildcats of 847 Naval Air Squadron – the first time the Commando Helicopter Force of tomorrow has been together in northern Norway.

That’s quite a view. A Merlin Mk3 of the Commando Helicopter Force looks down on the inlets, islands and snow-covered fields around Stavanger in western Norway as the Royal Marines’ new battlewagon heads to the Arctic for winter training.

A detachment from 845 Naval Air Squadron – one of two front-line helicopter formations designed to carry commandos into battle – hopped across northern Europe and Scandinavia to the Norwegian air base at Bardufoss (from Stavanger there are still 800 miles to go…) for Arctic environmental training, ensuring that men (and women) and machines can operate in the harshest of climates.

This was a great opportunity to visit our Danish friends and colleagues

Lt Cdr James Coleman

This year’s Exercise Clockwork (so called because it happens every winter, regular as…) is the first where the CHF of tomorrow is all together.

With the veteran Sea Kings retiring next month, they’ve been left behind in the UK, leaving the Arctic skies free for their successor Merlins and the new battlefield Wildcats of 847 NAS, who are making their debut in this part of the world.

On their way out to Bardufoss, which lies 175 miles inside the Arctic Circle, the Merlins dropped in on their old friends from the Royal Danish Air Force, Eskadrille 722 SAR Squadron in Aalborg.

A number of 845 aircrew served with their Danish comrades on operations in Afghanistan and their Merlins are modelled on those flown by the crews of 845 NAS and are used in search-and-rescue and troop support roles.

“This was a great opportunity to visit our Danish friends and colleagues – we can learn a lot from each other as we fully develop the Merlin’s capabilities,” said 845’s operations officer Lt Cdr James Coleman.

“The knowledge shared between crews regarding operations close to shore and in the Arctic is invaluable in developing force requirements, training and operations.”

845 NAS are currently based at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire – they took over the helicopters from the air force last year – and will return to the CHF’s spiritual home in Yeovilton later this year.

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