'Proud moment' for Cornish Navy crew as they embark on year-long deployment

One of the seven Merlin Mk 2 helicopters that have been deployed from Cornwall to HMS Queen Elizabeth. Credit: Royal Navy

Nearly 200 crew members at a Cornish Navy base have departed on a year-long deployment.

Aircrew and engineers from RNAS Culdrose in Helston left their base yesterday (27 April) to depart for HMS Queen Elizabeth, a Royal Navy aircraft carrier.

Almost all personnel left to join the ship, which will become their new home for the best part of a year.

The carrier – which is the Royal Navy’s flagship – is taking part in exercises in UK waters in preparation for her maiden deployment to the Far East.

Working with the UK’s allies and NATO partners, she will visit 40 countries on her deployment.

Almost the entire squadron has been deployed away from Cornwall - and won't be back until the end of the year. Credit: The Royal Navy

All seven Merlin Mk2 helicopters also left for HMS Queen Elizabeth, taking off throughout the morning.

As well as anti-submarine warfare aircraft, they included three helicopters converted for airborne surveillance and control (ASaC) and fitted with powerful radars.

The helicopters of 820 Naval Air Squadron will be the "airborne guardians" of the Royal Navy's strike fleet travelling to Asia.

Between them, they will defend the carrier and her escorts from threats below the waves, on the surface and in the air.

Commander Ian Varley, who is the commanding officer of 820 Naval Air Squadron, said: “This is a proud moment today. A tremendous amount of work has gone into getting us ready for this.

“ASaC is a new capability inserted into the existing Merlin Mk2 helicopter fleet.

"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.

All seven helicopters based at RNAS Culdrow took off from the Cornish base for HMS Queen Elizabeth Credit: The Royal Navy

“From my personal point, having ASaC back in the Fleet Air Arm is getting us back to where we used to be of old.

"I first started flying anti-submarine warfare helicopters and I also flew the equivalent of ASaC, which was the airborne early warning Sea King. That was when we had carriers with Sea Harriers and we were able to deploy anywhere around the world.

“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.”

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