UK Merlin helicopters and personnel from 820 Naval Air Squadron will be deployed in the Gulf region and the Indian Ocean to counter piracy and maritime terrorism.

The Merlin helicopters are primarily designed for anti-submarine warfare, but due to their size, speed and technological capability, they are also used in maritime security operations.

The helicopter will provide surveillance of shipping routes, detect and deter pirate activity, and is also capable of neutralising threats to commercial and leisure vessels in the area.

The aircraft can carry Royal Marines for sniper operations and boarding through ropes, and is also fitted with heavy duty machine guns and thermal imaging equipment.

Deputy Force Commander of the Merlin Helicopter Force Lieutenant Commander Neil Brian said the deployment of the helicopter would enhance the navy’s ability to counter the constant threat that piracy poses to vessels of all nations.

The international anti-piracy efforts are co-ordinated by the Combined Maritime Force (CMF) based in Bahrain.