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Culdrose helicopter team on its way home for Christmas

By AliceWright  |  Posted: December 12, 2012

  • HMS Sutherland Flight – Aircrew, Engineers and Maritime Sniper Team

  • Flight Commander, Lt Earl Kingston, briefs senior Tanzanian military figures on counter piracy

  • LAC Cox helps a member of the orphanage redecorate in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Africa

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A team from RNAS Culdrose, Helston, is on its way home from the Indian Ocean after a six month deployment helping to fight piracy and people and drug trafficking.  

HMS Sutherland has been home to aircrewmen and engineers from 829 Naval Air Squadron for the past six months. In the summer, they sailed to the Indian Ocean and the Gulf with their Merlin helicopter.  Their mission was to assist in counter piracy operations, as well as surveillance for counter drug, people and weapon trafficking.  

The team from Culdrose, headed by Lieutenant Earl Kingston, has been heavily involved with patrolling thousands of miles of ocean in temperatures reaching over 40 degrees, ensuring the safe passage of vessels as they make their way through some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

The Aircrew have scoured shorelines and open oceans for suspicious vessels, provided protection for boarding operations, conducted lifting of stores from replenishment ships and airlifted compassionate cases into various countries for onwards travel.

The engineers have had a particularly challenging time, maintaining the aircraft in hangar temperatures of over 50 degrees and 90 per cent humidity.  Not only do they make it very difficult to work, but the conditions have a detrimental effect on many of the helicopter's sensors, presenting the team with challenges not normally experienced at their Cornish home.

The crew have also visited ports from Dubai in UAE to Tanzania in Africa, where they hosted visits by foreign dignitaries, local schools, and host nation forces.  They have helped restore an orphanage, visited the lost city of Petra, been invited to watch the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and played football matches with local teams.  

Still on Maritime Security Operations, HMS Sutherland is now making her way home through the Mediterranean where the crew will have the chance to relax for a few days in Malta before arriving home just before Christmas.

They were relieved by another Culdrose-based "Flight" onboard HMS Northumberland, who will now perform operations in the Gulf for the next six months.

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