Exercise Merlin Storm: Tough Test For Pilots Before Getting Their Wings

The exercise is the culmination of several years of training.

Military personnel hoping to become Commando Helicopter Force pilots have been testing themselves on Exercise Merlin Storm.

The exercise is the culmination of years of training and is also a chance to prove the trainee Merlin helicopter pilots have acquired the skills needed to fulfill the role.

"The students have had to cope with all manner of challenges that are new to them," said Lieutenant Commander Phil Wray.

Particular tests included a tactical overlay, hostile environment, as well as coping with the bad weather.

Pilots in training during Ex Merlin Storm 300919 CREDIT Commando Helicopter Force.jpg
Among the many challenges, the trainee pilots also had to cope with bad weather conditions (Picture: Commando Helicopter Force).

Taking place in North Devon, the exercise involves almost everyone who supports the Commando Helicopter Force.

Captain Paul Fleet, Motor Transport Officer, said his unit was engaged in rolling out a tactical refuelling area as part of the exercise. 

Exercise Merlin Storm puts the aircrew under continuous pressure while living in field conditions in North Devon. 

They have been tested in all aspects of commando flying, from load lifting to troop carrying.

Training during Ex Merlin Storm 300919 CREDIT Commando Helicopter Force.jpg
Some of the people taking part in Ex Merlin Storm have been training for five years (Picture: Commando Helicopter Force).

As part of 846 Naval Air Squadron, they have also helped the community, moving a rare fossil on the Jurassic Coast, and shifting tonnes of gravel in Exmoor to repair a remote path.

For tactical training, they had to rescue casualties, work in pairs and test their low-level navigation skills.

"Exercise Merlin Storm is the culmination of our year conversion unit before we qualify and get our wings, which will be the end of five years of flying training," said Lieutenant Matt Gordon.

If they are successful, pilots will be presented with their flying wings later this year.