The first five of the UK’s fleet of next generation anti-submarine & maritime patrol Agusta Westland AW101 Merlin Mk2 helicopters have been handed over to the Royal Navy in the third week of July 2013.
The Royal Navy’s 824 Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Culdrose in Southwest England received the upgraded machines from the manufacturer.
Fitted with a glass cockpit and improved aircrew mission console and avionics, the Merlin HM Mk 2 has advanced touch screen displays, and an improved ability to detect and track targets and share data with other aircraft and ships while airborne. These and equipment improvements will also enable the helicopters to carry out counter piracy and casualty evacuation roles.
Thirty Merlin Mk1 helicopters are being converted to Mk2s by AgustaWestland at its Yeovil facility. Following the completion of trials the first helicopters are expected to be ready to deploy on operations by summer 2014. Delivery of all 30 Merlin HM Mk2s will be completed in 2015.
Seventeen squadrons, 50 aircraft from four air bases and a great location to fly. The best of the best of the Royal Air Force flocked to RAF Lossiemouth, Scotland, in July for the Combined Qualified Weapons Instructor (CQWI) exercise.
,,The CQWI exercise is looking to pass 27 students over 2 weeks to gain their qualification as a weapon’s instructor. For most of the individuals involved in CQWI it is their final exercise in a gruelling 12 month training programme. The exercise is held for pilots who are considered the brightest and best, allowing them to gain tactical appreciation of the aircraft and the significance of their role on operations”, writes a RAF press spokesperson.
The exercise brings extra life to the homebase of the Panavia Tornado GR4s of 12(B), 15(R) and 617 Squadron. Eurofighter Typhoons, British Aerospace Hawk T1As, Lockheed C-130Ks, Lockheed C-130J, a Sentinel R1 and Dassault DA20 Falcons were all involved. Some act as bogey, some provide intel and some merely focus on the training.
RAF Typhoons of 1(F) squadron will move permanently to Lossiemouth from September 2014.
The Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF / KLu) received its first next-generation fighter, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II on July 25th, 2013. Although the Joint Strike Fighter is now officially Dutch, it will almost immediately after the planned ferry flight from Forth Worth, Texas, to Eglin AFB, Florida, be stored there. Reason: the Dutch parliament has not decided yet if it likes to continue with the purchase of up to 56 F-35s.
The Netherlands ordered two aircraft, the first in 2009, but budget crises and increasing JSF development and production costs scared off the Dutch people’s representatives a bit.
The second Dutch test JSF has been produced as well. According to the Dutch Ministry of Defence it undergoes a series of test and acceptance flights before it will join the first KLu F-35 stored at Eglin. The mothballing will continue until the Netherlands government makes a final decision on which aircraft will succeed the RNLAF F-16 fighters.
For the first time in recent history a Super Puma helicopter of the Spanish Air Force operated from Spanish Navy ships.
During the exercise Marítima Tornado P-44, named after the corvette P-44 Tornado which served as landing platform, in the third week of July, 2013, the Aérospatiale (Eurocopter) AS332B Super Puma of 802 Escuadrón practiced procedures with the Armada with an eye on possible future operations.
The joint ops take more than just deck landings. Helicopter and ship crews need to stay in contact about the wind limits, training on the handling of JP-5 fuel and to have the helicopter firmly on the deck of the moving ship.
802 Esc normally operates from Gando at Gran Canaria, the third largest and second most populated island of the the Canary Islands situated in the Atlantic Ocean 150 km (93 miles) from the North-African coast. Apart from the Super Puma the squadron also flies three Fokker F27-200MAR maritime patrol aircraft & search-and-rescue aircraft. Gando is also home to the 462 Esc with its EF-18A (C.15) fighter jets.