Royal Marines helicopters completed their epic 1,800-mile journey into the Arctic Circle (Picture: MOD).
Royal Marines helicopters completed their epic 1,800-mile journey into the Arctic Circle (Picture: MOD).
Arctic/Antarctic

Merlins and Wildcats make epic journey for Arctic training

The helicopters flew in from an epic 1,800-mile journey from Somerset to reach the training hub deep inside the Arctic Circle.

Royal Marines helicopters completed their epic 1,800-mile journey into the Arctic Circle (Picture: MOD).
Royal Marines helicopters completed their epic 1,800-mile journey into the Arctic Circle (Picture: MOD).

British military helicopters have arrived in the High North to support Royal Marines commandos as they prepare for Exercise Cold Response.

The training, which begins next month at Bardufoss, is the largest military exercise in Norway in more than 30 years.

Three troop-carrying Merlin helicopters of 845 Naval Air Squadron and four battlefield Wildcats from 847 NAS flew in from an epic 1,800-mile journey from Somerset to reach the training hub deep inside the Arctic Circle.

Aircrews spent 20 hours in their aircraft, dodging storms, snow showers and manoeuvering through rugged mountainous terrain to arrive at the destination.

In each Merlin, there were two pilots, two aircrew personnel and five engineers to carry out any maintenance needed on the various legs of their journey.

Pilot Lieutenant Andy Duffield described the Arctic as "one of the greatest, yet unforgiving, flying environments in the world".

Detachment commander Lieutenant Commander Tom Nason said the harsh weather conditions were relentless, but it didn't take long before his men got used to it.

He said: "The Arctic has offered us little respite from the outset with the inclement weather we've experienced.

"Lessons have been quickly re-learned with the 'old guard' coming to the fore to guide those experiencing their first taste of this majestic region."

Now acclimatising, the helicopters will remain in Norway until April working with the Royal Marines, Apaches of the Army Air Corps, the host nation and, from next month, international participants of Cold Response.

It's been two years since the squadron last conducted extensive training in the High North, due to the pandemic.