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Royal Navy helicopter squadron strengthens relationship with counterparts in Portugal

Merlin Mk4 helicopters of 846 Naval Air Squadron have trained with their Portuguese counterparts in Lisbon. Picture: POPhot Kyle Heller
Royal Navy aircrew have strengthened the service’s bond with their Portuguese counterparts after an exercise in Lisbon.

The Commando flyers of 846 Naval Air Squadron took their Merlin Mk 4 helicopters to Exercise Montijo Merlin with 751 Squadron of the Portuguese Airforce.  

The exercise was based out of Montijo Airbase, across the Tagus River from the city of Lisbon. It was primarily aimed at providing the student pilots and aircrew of 846 Operational Conversion Flight experience of deploying through continental airspace.

The exercise also saw the two squadrons formalise their affiliation, adding to the long-standing relationship between the UK and Portugal.

“Although we fly the same aircraft there was much we could learn from each other in how we operate,” said Commander Richard Bartram, Commanding Officer of 846 NAS.

“Montijo is perfectly placed to conduct numerous training serials that we need to be proficient in. From low flying to air gunnery, mountain flying, winching and fast roping to ships at sea, the training estate available to 751 Squadron is impressive with easy access to all of it within an hour’s flying time. The biggest bonus is the excellent flying weather they have here for most of the year.”

Aircrew from 846 flew with 751 during search-and-rescue training sorties and watched simulated casualty evacuations from large container ships.

The Commando Helicopter Force crew also saw cliff winching off the Portuguese coast and stretcher recoveries at sea. One of the squadron’s aircrew helped pilots from 751 to recover a swimmer from the sea.

Although we fly the same aircraft there was much we could learn from each other in how we operate,”

Commander Richard Bartram, Commanding Officer of 846 NAS

The highlight of the week saw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two Commanding Officers of 846 NAS and 751 Squadron, setting out the affiliation and the bilateral agreement of how it is hoped the two Merlin squadrons can continue to work together in future. 

Witnessed by Chris Sainty, His Majesty’s Ambassador to Portugal, Colonel Diná Azevedo, the Base Commander of Montijo and Lieutenant Colonel Kian Murphy, Defence Attaché to Portugal and Cabo Verde, Commander Bartram and Major Silva signed the document before taking to the skies in a mixed formation flight around the Lisbon waterfront.

With the departing civilian air traffic being held at Lisbon International Airport for the momentous flight, 751 Squadron led the way and the four Merlin formation took in the Cristo Rei statue, Ponte 25 de Abril and Vasco de Gama suspension bridges, as well as the Portuguese coast before returning to Motijo to conduct a formation flypast of the station headquarters.

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