The UK Royal Navy’s latest Merlin Mk2 submarine-hunting helicopters are set to participate in Exercise Deep Blue in the Atlantic.
The nine Merlin helicopters will join the navy’s Invincible-class, light-aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, and perform skills that were formerly the foundation of the navy’s aircraft carrier manoeuvres.
Royal Navy Maritime Merlin Force commanding officer Ben Franklin said: "Deep Blue is a high tempo and multi-aircraft exercise, which will test the new version of the Merlin but ultimately help us to prepare for operations onboard the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier."
Based at the Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall, the Merlin fleet has been undergoing a £750m overhaul, which will allow it to lead the naval fleet until the late 2020s.
Exercise Deep Blue will also see additional Merlin helicopters embarked on HMS Westminster, resulting in the biggest concentration of submarine-hunting helicopters and of Merlins at sea.
"Operating from sea and conducting anti-submarine warfare is what we do, but this exercise presents an opportunity to deploy en-masse," Franklin added.
Following day-and-night training around the UK, HMS Illustrious and the helicopters will depart for the exercise, which finishes in mid to late June.
Image: As part of the exercise, the Merlin Mk2 submarine-hunting helicopters will face their greatest test yet. Photo: courtesy of the Royal Navy.