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Merlin Helicopters Leave Britain To Join Flight Trials In US

The Commando Merlin Mark 4s left RNAS Yeovilton less than two days after HMS Queen Elizabeth departed Portsmouth.

Three Commando Merlin Mark 4 helicopters have joined HMS Queen Elizabeth as she begins flight trials in the United States.

The helicopters left RNAS Yeovilton less than two days after HMS Queen Elizabeth departed Portsmouth, as part of Exercise West Lant 18 - the journey to the US.

The trials will see F-35B fighter jets conduct 500 take-offs and landings from her deck during four months.

Taking part in the tests at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, is 845 Naval Air Squadron, who this year received the first of the newly upgraded Commando Merlin Mk 4s.

They will be joined by Royal Marines from 42 Commando, as specialists in joint personnel recovery.

Merlin Mk4 on board HMS Queen Elizabeth

Lieutenant Tom Lennon, a pilot with 845 Naval Air Squadron, told Forces News: "Some of the primary objectives for us when we're flying on board from the carrier is to support the trials of the F-35.

"Also providing generic search and rescue capability, so if those guys were to eject operationally behind enemy lines it'd us that go in to get them out."

The aircraft carrier is also joined on West Lant 18 by RFA Tiderace and Plymouth-based type-23 frigate HMS Monmouth, as well as Merlin Mk2 helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron, RNAS Culdrose.

Last year, a Merlin helicopter became the first aircraft to ever land on HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The Commando Helicopter Force left on Monday morning from their Yeovilton base:

We are LIVE as the Commando Helicopter Force deploys to join HMS Queen Elizabeth for four months of flight trials

Posted by Forces News on Monday, 20 August 2018