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Royal Marines helicopter look to extend battlefield range working with RAF

9 November 2022
The RAF joined forces with the wings of the Royal Marines to see how the two might link up on a future operation far from an airfield.

A Hercules was used to top up the tanks of Commando Helicopter Force Merlin Mk4s for the first time in a (very wet) dry run at RNAS Yeovilton to pave the way for similar operations in the field.

CHF has specialists – Mobile Air Operations Teams – who set up forward ammo/refuelling bases to support their aircraft far from ships or air bases.
And so do the RAF. Its Brize Norton-based Air Mobility Force can call upon the Tactical Supply Wing.

It’s actually bread and butter to the aviators. They’ve done this with Chinooks. And Sea Kings. But not the Royal Marines’ latest battlewagon, the Merlin Mk4.

So to prove the concept a Herc flew into CHF’s home of Yeovilton to set up what the RAF (for now) call the Air Landed Arming and Refuelling Point (ALARP).

Waiting to take on fuel, two turning and burning Merlin Mk4s which successfully took on black gold in an operation the RAF say ran “flawlessly despite torrential downpours”.

The practice run in the otherwise benign surroundings of Yeovilton served as the perfect setting for testing the concept and giving Merlin air and ground crews an idea of what to expect were they performing refuelling in the field...

… which is the next step in the training, whereby flat ground on Salisbury Plain or on the Otterburn ranges in Northumberland, or even a long stretch of beach could serve as the temporary landing site.

With the Hercules due to be retired by the end of March, the RAF is looking to its successor, the A400M, to provide a similar service, ALARS, the Air-Landed Aircraft Refuelling System.

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