The first Royal Navy Lynx helicopter to join a French frigate for a full counter-piracy deployment has arrived on board the ship in Toulon.
As part of the initiative for the UK and French armed forces to work more closely together, the Lynx Mark 8 aircraft from Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton will deploy with the FS Surcouf as part of Operation Atalanta off the Horn of Africa.
The 12 UK personnel from 217 Flight have started a four-week training period, including an exercise to assess the warship’s capability for operations, before deploying at the end of the month.
Flight Commander Lieutenant Mike Curd said: “To be given the opportunity to learn the language and then spend an entire deployment operating with the French Navy is fantastic and my team is very excited, not only to be contributing to counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean, but to be doing it in such unusual circumstances.”
Lt Curd and Pilot Lt Chris Southworth are part of a team comprising of senior maintenance rating Chief Petty Officer Matthew Eccles and seven aircraft engineers along with two Royal Marine snipers.
Their training included a 15-week French language course earlier this year to prepare them for life on board the French vessel.
This deployment falls under the terms of the Lancaster House Treaty in which UK and the France agreed military cooperation to assure their international commitments and strengthen their capability.
Op Atalanta is part of the European Union’s ongoing Naval effort to disrupt and deter piracy in a bid to reduce its impact on international trade, maritime security and on the economic activities and security of countries in the region.
Commanding Officer of the FS Surcouf, Capitaine de Frigate (CF) Hughes Laine said: “I am very pleased to welcome 217 Flight to Surcouf and look forward to having the world renowned capability of the Lynx Mk 8 at my disposal for the deployment.”
217 Flight will be away over Christmas and New Year returning to RNAS Yeovilton in March 2013.