Merlin helicopters on HMS queen elizabeth deck ahead of her maiden deployment 270421 CREDIT Royal Navy

HMS Queen Elizabeth Welcomes Merlins Ahead Of Carrier Strike Group

Merlin helicopters on HMS queen elizabeth deck ahead of her maiden deployment 270421 CREDIT Royal Navy

Royal Navy Merlin helicopters have arrived on HMS Queen Elizabeth as the fleet flagship's Carrier Strike Group prepares to deploy next week.

Three specialist Merlin Mk2 Crowsnests, which are designed for surveillance, have joined four fellow Merlins designed for anti-submarine operations.

During the Carrier Strike Group deployment, HMS Queen Elizabeth's flight deck will host British and US F-35B Lightning jets, four Wildcat maritime attack helicopters, seven Merlin Mk2 anti-submarine and airborne early-warning helicopters and three Merlin Mk4 commando helicopters.

The Crowsnest Merlins will be in charge of airborne surveillance and control (ASaC).

They will fly up to a mile and a half above the Carrier Strike Group to scout for threats.

A crew of 190 servicemen and women comprising of the aircraft and engineers from 820 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) will be responsible for the aircraft during the deployment.

Commander Ian Varley, the commanding officer of 820 Naval Air Squadron, said it is "a proud moment" and that a "tremendous amount of work" has gone into preparations.

Merlin helicopters arrive on HMS Queen Elizabeth ahead of maiden deployment 270421 CREDIT Royal Navy
One hundred and ninety service personnel from 820 NAS will be responsible for the helicopters during the deployment (Picture: Royal Navy).

He said: "We are now embarking that in the Carrier Strike Group, so we can have constant surveillance of the sea and airspace around the ships.

"This will protect the carrier and her escorts from any potential threat, be that missiles, aircraft or other warships."

Cdr Varley added: "Moving forward now into 2021, we are re-establishing that capability with our new carriers, as we work with our allies on this historic deployment for the Royal Navy and the United Kingdom."

HMS Queen Elizabeth is taking part in an exercise off the coast of Scotland ahead of the landmark deployment.

The formation is set to visit 40 countries, covering 26,000 nautical miles.

It will be led by HMS Queen Elizabeth, the 28-week deployment will be the largest concentration of maritime and airpower to leave the UK in a generation.

Cover image: Royal Navy.

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