Royal Marines have been testing their ability to rescue ‘downed’ pilots from aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, say the Royal Navy.

According to a news release, earlier in the month around 80 Royal Marines from Lima Company of 42 Commando were launched on Merlins from HMS Queen Elizabeth headed for Dartmoor.

Lieutenant Tom Lennon highlighted how important the pilot recovery role is to Carrier Strike Group operations:

“After many years of land-centric campaigns, 845 NAS is getting fully back into the business of specialist amphibious operations,” he said. We occupy a unique position, with a foot firmly in both the maritime and land camps, bringing ship-to-shore air manoeuvre expertise to the UK Carrier Strike Group.”

According to the release:

“The commandos used their search and rescue techniques to track down the stranded pilot in the undergrowth and bring them back to the Merlins and safely to the carrier. The specialists in delivering these Royal Marines in to the thick of the action and quickly and safely extracting them is 845 Naval Air Squadron of CHF and their upgraded Merlin MK4 helicopters.  

CHF’s role on the carrier is to act as the wings of the Royal Marines but also in a search and rescue role, in addition to moving personnel and stores around the Carrier Strike Group or forwards on to land.”

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Daniele Mandelli

Good the UK is developing some sort of capability in this, even if it is basic. Better than nothing.


I came across across a US Pave Hawk at an Airshow, most impressed. It would be nice to see the Uk purchase a couple of new Merlins which would then be fitted out for the same task or even purchase a couple of the Pavehawk replacements off of the yanks. Hey I can but dream.


I thought the RAF regiment had been trained for this task in the past.


Only the ones that complete the 5 mile march of death!

Daniele Mandelli

Yes, briefly when the RAF flew those same Merlins.


Ah ok.


Needs a dedicated chopper with in-flight refuelling capability. I would think that the merlin with extended range tanks and a refuelling probe plus associated defence aids would be the best choice (make them in Yeovil), Would need a couple of those short fuselage C130j we have in storage to be converted to k standard. Do it properly…no ferking about..aircrew are difficult to replace!

James Fennell

The HC4 Merlins have come with refuelling probes, although they are not to be fitted until we have some capability or urgent need to refuel them (the Chinooks can also take probes) – good for SF operations and the longer ranges envisaged for the Army’s ‘Strike’ concept and the RM’s new focus on raiding operations – ‘Littoral Strike’. Some of the 14 remaining C-130Js could be given a helicopter refuelling capability (underwing AAR pods, more underwing and roll-on internal tanks) relatively easily – they are supposed to be getting some sort of offensive capability under the ‘Venom’ programme that would… Read more »


I believe the last downed UK airman behind enemy lines was the SHAR pilot in Serbia…he was rescued….there was a book…anyone know the details?


@Julian1 The book is called No Escape Zone by Nick Richardson, available at most online retailers