The UK Royal Marines’ new battlefield helicopters embarked on the amphibious assault flag ship HMS Ocean off the south coast to conduct basic amphibious training.
A team of engineers and aircrew from the green Merlin fleet will get acquainted with the newer version of the fleet that replaces the retired green Sea King helicopters.
846 Naval Air Squadron commanding officer lieutenant colonel Del Stafford said: "Even though this short embarkation on HMS Ocean may seem like a relatively minor achievement, it marks an extremely important milestone for all that have been living and breathing Merlin operations for the last few years."
The green Merlin helicopters are said to be bigger, faster and can provide greater range, and are easier to board or disembark than the helicopter it replaces.
The newer version has the capability to engage in combat operations over land as well as on the sea when compared with the grey submarine-hunting Merlins.
The helicopters have also received an upgrade termed as the Merlin iMk3 by outfitting the aircraft with a folding main rotor head and a fortified undercarriage and communications upgrades.
The iMk3 upgrade is said to have enhanced the capability of the green Merlin fleet to engage in amphibious operations than the predecessors.
Lieutenant commander Alex Hampson said: "The iMk3 has a number of modifications to allow us to operate at sea, day and night, as well as the ability to conduct various other tasks such as the fast roping of troops to the deck of a ship on the move."
It is said to bridge the gap until the introduction of the ‘marinised’ version of the battlefield Merlin, the Mk4, scheduled to be delivered next year.
Image: A Merlin helicopter embarking on onboard HMS Ocean. Photo: courtesy of Royal Navy.