Royal Navy, March 27, 2015 - Six Commando Helicopter Force Merlin Mk3 helicopters proudly flew in formation over Somerset yesterday to mark the return of 846 Naval Air Squadron to their home in RNAS Yeovilton.
This six formation flight marked a defining moment for the Commando Helicopter Force in its transition to the Merlin Mk3 helicopter, seeing 846 NAS not only return to Somerset but also to a brand new building.
Lt Col Derek Stafford RM, Commanding Officer of 846 Naval Air Squadron, said: “I am deeply honoured and truly humbled to be not only the first Commanding Officer of the Squadron in the Merlin era, but also to have the privilege of leading the return of the Squadron to its spiritual home at RNAS Yeovilton.
"After three years of being based in Oxfordshire it is finally time to relocate to our ‘spiritual’ home in Yeovilton.", PO Sam Parkin
"Having already proven ourselves in the desert of Jordan in autumn 2014 and the Arctic in 2015, the immediate future will see the Squadron maintaining a Very High Readiness posture for contingent operations around the globe, and being at the forefront of a Force wide reinvigoration of expertise in the maritime environment.
"These challenges will be met with the same qualities of determination, professionalism and cheerfulness in the face of adversity that were displayed by our forebears, are encapsulated in the ‘Junglie’ ethos, and endure as the hallmarks of the Squadron and its people.“
Having been based at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire for the last three years, where 846 NAS personnel were trained by RAF instructors, 846 NAS are pleased to be reunited with the Commando Helicopter Force at RNAS Yeovilton once more.
PO Sam Parkin, Aircrewman 846 Naval Air Squadron said: “After three years of being based in Oxfordshire it is finally time to relocate to our ‘spiritual’ home in Yeovilton. I think I speak on behalf of a lot of personnel when I say we are all looking forward to operating out of RNAS Yeovilton and being co-located with the rest of our CHF squadrons.“
846 Naval Air Squadron have a long and proud history. Since their establishment in April 1943, they have supported operations across the world, from Borneo, where the Commando Helicopter Force earned the moniker ‘Junglies’, to Afghanistan.
Already a proven platform, the marinisation programme will see the Merlin Mk3 equipped with a folding main rotor head and a modified undercarriage for deck landings, the Merlin will ensure the Commando Helicopter Force continue to successfully support the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and the Joint Helicopter Command.
Captain Niall Griffin, Commanding Officer of the Commando Helicopter Force said: “The arrival today of six Merlin helicopters of 846 NAS from RAF Benson to RNAS Yeovilton marks another milestone in the transition of the Commando Helicopter Force from the Sea King to the Merlin.
"Over the next year we will see a gradual build up of Merlins here in Somerset, as we relocate them from Oxfordshire. By Easter next year both front line Merlin squadrons, 845 NAS and 846 NAS, will be co-located here at RNAS Yeovilton, once more being reunited with 847 NAS, now flying the Wildcat, the Combat Service Support Squadron and the Force Headquarters.
"This will mark the beginning of a new era in the Commando Helicopter Force’s history as we take forward these new capabilities. Whilst there are clearly exciting times ahead, it is important to look back on the aircraft which the Merlin replaces. When the Sea King Mk4 retires next March, it will have been in service for some 37 years, serving in more Operational Theatres than any other Fleet Air Arm aircraft.
“The Force is currently very busy having just recovered from training in Norway, and preparing for a major international exercise, Joint Warrior, all around the UK this Easter. Looking further ahead to the Autumn, CHF will be participating in the Royal Navy’s Flagship deployment to the Mediterranean, Cougar 15, as well as training with 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines in the Mojave Desert, California. Both represent excellent training and will continue to keep us at Very High Readiness as a Force."
The Commando Helicopter Force’s transition from the Sea King Mk4 to the Merlin will continue at RAF Benson when 845 Naval Air Squadron stand up in place of 28 (Army Cooperation) Squadron RAF in May 2015. When fully operational, 845 NAS will return home to Yeovilton to reunite all the CHF Squadrons.