6 Sep 10
A Royal Navy Merlin helicopter squadron is deploying to the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden to carry out specialist anti-piracy operations over the coming months.
Personnel from 820 Naval Air Squadron, including aircrew and engineers and their Merlin helicopter, will be embarked on Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Fort Victoria and will be equipped to counter the threat of piracy and maritime terrorism.
Piracy in the Gulf region
and the Indian Ocean has grown more prevalent in recent years and the Royal Navy is committed to protecting the UK's national interests and those of the Commonwealth and its allies overseas.
International anti-piracy efforts are co-ordinated by Combined Maritime Forces based in Bahrain.
Using highly advanced sensors and communications equipment, the Merlin helicopter will provide surveillance of shipping routes and will detect and deter pirate activity as well as providing the capability to board and search vessels.
The aircraft, in conjunction with Royal Naval ships in the region, will also have the ability to use force to neutralise any threat to commercial and leisure vessels in the area.
The primary role of the Merlin helicopter, the Royal Navy's most modern aircraft, is anti-submarine warfare; however, due to its size, speed and proven technological capability, this versatile aircraft is also used in maritime security operations.
The helicopter is large enough to carry Royal Marines for sniper operations and boarding via fast roping, both of which are vital to counter the threat of pirates, and it is fitted with heavy duty machine guns and thermal imaging equipment.
Lieutenant Commander Neil Brian, Deputy Commander of the Merlin Helicopter Force, said: "Deploying one of the most capable and versatile helicopters in the world to this region will enhance the Royal Navy's ability to counter the constant threat that piracy poses to vessels of all nations.
"All Royal Navy Merlin helicopter crews are trained in maritime security operations and having the opportunity to contribute to the ongoing work of the Combined Maritime Forces demonstrates the Royal Navy's ability to protect our interests overseas."