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, on France's south coast.
As part of the initiative for the UK and French Armed Forces to work more closely together, a Lynx Mk8 aircraft and 12 UK personnel from 217 Flight, based at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton, will deploy with the French frigate FS Surcouf as part of Operation ATALANTA, off the Horn of Africa.
Before the Surcouf deploys at the end of November, the detachment of Royal Navy personnel have started a four-week training period, which includes an exercise to assess the warship’s operational capabilities.
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 also to be doing it in such unusual circumstances.
Lt Curd and helicopter pilot Lt Chris Southworth are part of a team comprising senior maintenance rating Chief Petty Officer Matthew Eccles and seven aircraft engineers, along with two Royal Marines snipers.
Their training for this deployment 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 Anglo-French Treaty signed at the Lancaster House summit in November 2010 in which the UK and France agreed on military co-operation to assure their international commitments and strengthen their capabilities.
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 and maritime security and on the economic activities and security of countries in the region.
The Commanding Officer of the FS Surcouf, Capitaine de Frigate 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 Mk8 at my disposal for the deployment.
217 Flight will be away over Christmas and the New Year, returning to RNAS Yeovilton in March 2013.