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Trainee aircrew practise mountain flying in Norway

Aircrew students have taken a step forward in earning their coveted wings after mountain training in Norway.

The Operational Conversion Flight of 846 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) deployed to the Arctic Circle to give trainees the chance to plan and execute a transit across Europe in their Merlin Mk3 helicopters.

Exercise Nordic Hammer saw pilots and aircrewmen from 30 Course of the Commando Helicopter Force's training squadron fly from their home base of Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, in Somerset, to Bardufoss.

While overseas they practised take-offs and landings in the snow-covered, rocky mountains with peaks of more than 5,000ft.

Learning to operate the aircraft safely in such a dangerous and unpredictable environment is a vital skill for us.

Lieutenant George Day

During summer, temperatures are a lot milder than the minus 30C the region hits during winter. But the mountains still provided challenging flying conditions for the students to complete basic training on how to operate safely and effectively in a harsh environment.

Lieutenant George Day, a student pilot, said: "Learning to operate the aircraft safely in such a dangerous and unpredictable environment is an important skill for us.

"We therefore practise approaches in a variety of different conditions in the Arctic mountains of Norway."

Exercise Nordic Hammer helps prepare the aircrew for 846 NAS' frontline role of dropping off or picking up Royal Marines, anywhere in the world.

The Commando Helicopter Force has a long history of activity at Bardufoss Air Station having used it during the winter to train front-line personnel in extreme cold weather warfare. The training, known as Exercise Clockwork, has been taking place in Norway for the past 50 years.

Lieutenant Alex Craig, detachment commander and helicopter pilot instructor, said: "The training area around Bardufoss is perfect for teaching the advanced skills of operating a Merlin in the mountains.

"The terrain is a real challenge with peaks of up to 5,500ft. It gives training you can't possible hope to recreate anywhere in the UK."

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