UK: A Taste of the Future of Carrier Strike Operations

A Taste of the Future of Carrier Strike Operations

Providing a glimpse into the future of carrier strike operations, a Royal Navy Merlin helicopter has been captured hovering above the new Queen Elizabeth class carrier.

Although the Merlin from 820 Naval Air Squadron at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose could not land on the ship, which is approaching the final stages of build, this is an all-important preview of things to come.

The two giant aircraft carriers will operate multiple aircraft, but the Merlin will be the first to be cleared for operational use, ahead of the F35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

Sat in the helicopter as the crew took on a bird’s eye view of the enormity of the HMS Queen Elizabeth was Captain Mark Garratt, Commanding Officer of RNAS Culdrose, Commander Chris Godwin and Cdr Andrew ‘Rosey’ Rose.

The three personnel had travelled to Rosyth to discuss how Merlin squadrons might integrate into QEC carriers in the future. This was the first time the helicopter and her crew had ever flown past the ship.

Capt Garratt said:

“It is a huge privilege to visit HMS Queen Elizabeth and to see firsthand the future of UK Defence, the RN and the Fleet Air Arm taking shape.

“Having now witnessed the size and developing capability of this platform I am envious of those individuals who will go on to fly from her and her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales, but also impressed by the scale of endeavour and the leap in capability that these ships will bring in delivering maritime air power into the future.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest aircraft carrier ever to be built for the Royal Navy, weighing a hefty 65,000 tonnes.

She measures 283m from bow to stern and is 70m wide: her flight deck alone is just under four acres in length. She will have a crew of 680, with room for a further 900 personnel from embarked squadrons or Royal Marine Commando units.

Merlin helicopters will operate in the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and Airborne Early Warning (AEW) roles, as well as providing force protection and conducting other roles, including evacuating medical emergencies and the all-important collection of mail.

The Navy is shortly due to take ownership of the Merlin Mark 3 aircraft from the RAF, which will also operate from QEC carriers. These will replace the Commando Helicopter Force’s venerable Sea King Mark 4.

Press Release, July 24, 2013; Image: Royal Navy