The UK Royal Navy’s (RN) Merlin helicopters are conducting daily patrol missions in the Mediterranean Sea to assist EU commanders under the international migrant operation.
As part of the mission, a Merlin from 814 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) visited the Italian Navy’s aircraft carrier ITS Cavour for the first time.
Based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, the 814 NAS crew landed on the Italian flagship in the Mediterranean to receive the latest updates on the ongoing migrant problem in North Africa.
The UK Royal Navy has currently deployed multi-role survey vessel HMS Enterprise, along with Merlin helicopters, to help tackle the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean.
814 NAS senior pilot lieutenant commander Chris Wood said: "The mission now is surveillance, building up ‘patterns of life’, working with the commanders in the Cavour to find out where the migrants are coming from.
"Working with the Cavour has been a first for us. They operate the EH101, which is the Italian version of the Merlin – it’s similar, but not identical."
In May, the European Union approved plans to conduct a military operation to tackle the human trafficking networks that smuggle migrants through the Mediterranean Sea.
According to the International Organisation for Migration’s figures released in May, approximately 51,000 migrants have entered Europe this year, while more than 1,800 migrants have died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean.
Currently, a number of European nations are part of EU’s mission and the UK, Italy and Germany are providing four warships for the operation.
Deployed in June, HMS Bulwark rescued more than 4,700 people from the Mediterranean Sea so far.
Image: RN Merlin of 814 landing on deck of the Italian aircraft carrier ITS Cavour. Photo: courtesy of UK Royal Navy.