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Maritime Merlin Force Getting Ready For Carrier Strike

29 March 2018
Today a team of over 200 personnel have come together on one huge Squadron to ensure that the Merlin Force at RNAS Culdrose will deliver current and future Defence tasking.

Yesterday proud members of 829 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) took part in a special ceremony to recognise the achievements of the unit and to decommission it. 

Today the Aircraft, Aircrew and Engineers will continue their flying careers, but on another frontline Squadron at RNAS Culdrose – 814 NAS (the Flying Tigers) - to create the biggest Merlin Mk2 helicopter Squadron that the Royal Navy has ever had.

Flying the Merlin Mk2 helicopter from Type 23 Frigates, 829 NAS conducted various roles over the past 14 years including anti-piracy, anti-submarine warfare, humanitarian aid, search and rescue, counter drugs and maritime security operations.

Today’s Fleet Air Arm and tomorrow’s Royal Navy needs your genius and passion

Cdr Kay Burbidge RN

The tasks that the Squadron has undertaken will endure, but personnel will now put the skills that they have developed into good use on other units within the Merlin Helicopter Force. 

With the versatile Merlin Mk2 helicopter very much in demand across Defence, the decommissioning of 829 NAS, leaving two deployable frontline Merlin Squadrons and one training unit, is the first of several changes being made at the RNAS Culdrose to help the Air Station deliver all that is required of it.

Commander Mike Currie, Head of the Merlin Helicopter Force at RNAS Culdrose said: “With several key roles to deliver, including Anti-Submarine and Anti-Surface Warfare, our versatile Merlin Mk2 helicopter is integral to the Maritime Task Group and an essential part of Carrier Strike. 

“The addition of Airborne Surveillance and Control, through Crowsnest in the future, will increase the capability of this already very capable airframe.” 

“The Merlin Mk2 is in high demand with a number of strategic tasks to fulfil. Whilst we will continue to deliver to Operations across the Globe, we must also train and prepare for the future too.

“We have been looking at how my Force is organised to create a Squadron structure to not only deliver capability to the new Aircraft Carrier, but also sustain our current tasking. 

“Reviewing and evolving the way we manage our people and aircraft, will enable us to deliver the most flexible structures to fully exploit the versatility of this extremely capable aircraft.” 

Cdr Currie added: “As well as a reorganisation of personnel and aircraft, there will also be significant developments at RNAS Culdrose. 

“Hangar re-development and other improvements in our infrastructure will ensure that we can deliver to both our current and our future tasks.” 

829 NAS has an illustrious history and numerous battle honours.

The current Squadron is the fourth incarnation of a unit which traces its history back more than 70 years. 

Having been recommissioned in October 2004, the Squadron has spent the past 14 years flying the Merlin Mk1 and Mk2 aircraft on operations in areas including the North and South Atlantic, Mediterranean, Baltic, Red and Arabian Seas and the Gulf of Oman.

As personnel move on, they will always take with them the Kingfisher motto - Non Effugient! (They Shall Not Escape).

The Commanding Officer of 829 NAS, Cdr Kay Burbidge is rightly very proud of all that her team has achieved. 

Addressing her personnel in front of families and those who have previously served on the Squadron, Cdr Burbidge said: “Today we say thank you and farewell to a Squadron, but not the ethos behind our professionalism and dedication. 

“Today’s Fleet Air Arm and tomorrow’s Royal Navy needs your genius and passion, which has been evident through our Squadron history to prevail. 

“Your legacy will continue.”

“It has been my distinct pleasure and honour to have served you as your last Commanding Officer. 

“Thank you for all that you have done, all that you are going to do and, above all, for Serving with the distinction that you have so richly earned.”

Kay added: “I couldn’t have wished for a better way to end my flying career - in Command of this outstanding Squadron.”

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