820 Naval Air Squadron have embarked on HMS Queen Elizabeth with their Merlins to support her forthcoming F-35B flight trials.
According to the Royal Navy, extensive trials over the next four-month period will take place off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States with a view to developing the operating envelope – the parameters for safe operations – of the F-35.
820 NAS has been working with HMS Queen Elizabeth since the day she sailed, conducting the first deck landing last year and in February they embarked to support her helicopter trials.
The Commanding Officer of 820 NAS, Cdr Chris Knowles, who took command of the squadron in July, said:
“It’s a really exciting time for 820 squadron and for me personally. To take command of a squadron on the brink of a career defining deployment, with great people, all of whom are keen, professional and very much looking forward to getting on with their job at sea.
We’ve been cycling all crews through a thorough pre-deployment training package to make sure everyone is current and qualified to go. Our force protection role will be key to the ship at sea, as will our SAR capability, we’re ready and able to provide whatever support Queen Elizabeth needs.”
Merlin Force Commander, Cdr Mike Currie added:
“The embarkation of 820 NAS, and other members of her Air Group, represents another significant date in the development of HMS Queen Elizabeth and her capabilities.
The Squadron’s focus since the completion of the first deck landing last year has been very much centred around the First of Class Flying Trials with F-35B. The Eastern Seaboard deployment represents an exciting opportunity for the Squadron’s aircrew and maintainers to fully experience life on-board this amazing Ship.
It’s why people join the Royal Navy and I’m hugely jealous. To get to this stage the Squadron have spent time honing their skills both to meet the rigours of the embarkation and to prepare for any other emergent activity. This is the first of many such deployments for 820 NAS, in the longer term the Merlin Mk2 will also deliver the Crowsnest Airborne Surveillance capability to QEC.”