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Culdrose crew join Illustrious for Cougar exercise

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 23, 2013

  • This Merlin from 829 Naval Air Squadron is one of five aircraft currently deployed on HMS Illustrious. Below, taking part in an on-board exercise

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A helicopter from 829 Naval Air Squadron is flying the flag for its Cornwall base in a show of maritime strength.

Based onboard the amphibious commando helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious, the deployment will see the aircraft, from RNAS Culdrose, near Helston, work alongside Royal Marines of 42 Commando and 3 Commando Brigade from Plymouth.

The Response Force Task Group is also taking part in multinational exercises across the Gulf region, working with maritime and land units from many countries as part of the Royal Navy's Cougar 13 deployment.

The helicopter crew is usually based on the much smaller ship, HMS St Albans, a Type 23 frigate currently undergoing a major equipment upgrade. And the four aircrew, ten engineers and one leading aircraft controller, are seeing things differently from their larger home.

"HMS Illustrious is one of the Royal Navy's biggest ships," said flight pilot Lieutenant Jon Maumy.

"We have worked with both Lynx Mark 7 and 8 and are looking forward to operating with Sea Kings from Commando Helicopter Force and Apaches from the Army Air Corps and learning how they operate.

"Certainly the highlight so far has been taking part in Exercise Albanian Lion, when we supported 3 Commando Brigade as they stormed ashore."

Having exercised with the Royal Marines off the coast of Albania and Greece, the task group will be sailing on towards the Persian Gulf and more exercises before returning to UK waters later this year.

The four-month Cougar 13 deployment will operate in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, and Horn of Africa.

It involves exercising with partner nations, and will show the UK Armed Forces' capacity to project an effective maritime component anywhere in the world.

The task group is the United Kingdom's high-readiness maritime force, comprising ships, submarines, aircraft and a landing force of Royal Marines.

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