Merlin helicopters to fly from UK’s new aircraft carrier by spring

HMS Queen Elizabeth

HMS Queen Elizabeth

Michelle Bates, WO2 Lloyd Gillingham, Noah, six, and Gunner Ryan Hancock
Pictures: Habibur Rahman

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THE Royal Navy’s Merlin helicopters are to start flying from the decks of Britain’s new aircraft carrier by next March, a senior official has revealed.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is due to start her sea trials next year before beginning her first deployment by 2021.

The Merlins are expected to start ‘low-risk, simple flights’ from the carrier in spring, just before the ship comes to Portsmouth. This will be followed by first-class flight trials in early 2018, said Captain Kieran O’Brien, the Merlin team leader for the Ministry of Defence’s defence equipment and support procurement arm.

Merlins are already widely used within the navy and have been involved in a range of exercises in recent months, including migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean.

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