Tuesday, July 7, 2009
RAF Merlin flies 3500 miles back to UK
An RAF Merlin helicopter lifted off this morning from the Headquarters of the Joint Force Logistic Component in Kuwait for a marathon journey of 3500 miles back to UK.
Many helicopters making their way back to UK go on either a ship or in the hold of one on the RAFs massive C17 transport aircraft however on this occasion flying it directly represented the most speedy and economical option as well as providing important training for the crew.
Flight Lieutenant Max Bond is leading a team of six from the Joint Helicopter Force in Iraq (JHF-I) who will be onboard for the four day journey.
‘Planning is the key to success on a mission like this’ he explained form the operations room of the Joint Helicopter Force. ‘We are travelling though seven countries and will stop a total of 10 times for fuel and rest’
‘There are flight plans, diplomatic clearances and plenty of pre-booking required’ we’ve spent several days planning this trip’
For the past 5 years the Merlins have been supporting combat operation in Iraq however for the last 4 months the helicopters have provided direct support to the Joint Force Logistic Component (JFLogC). The Logistic force is co-ordinating the drawdown of six years worth of kit, equipment and personnel from Iraq since the end of combat operations in April this year.
So far JFLogC have completed about 80% of the task of handling over 4000 containers of kit and equipment; returning 600 vehicles to UK and reducing numbers from 4200 to the 500 troops now split between Iraq and Kuwait.
‘Good order’ is our watch word explained Lieutenant Colonel Lloyd Watkins, the JFLogC Chief of Staff, ‘and the helicopter force here in Kuwait are a key enabler in achieving this’.
The Merlin’s have provided a vital link between the Kuwait Support Facility, the Military port of Umm Qasr and the Contingency Operating Base on the outskirts of Basra which has been home for British forces for the past 6 years.
‘Now that UK troop numbers have reduced we can release one of the three helicopters’ explained Squadron leader Mark Biggadike, the Officer Commander the Merlin flight.
The helicopter will be going back to the UK for an overhaul then on to join the existing force in Afghanistan.