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Merlin helicopters from 845 Naval Air Squadron, embarked in HMS Queen Elizabeth have spent the first few days of their trans-Atlantic crossing perfecting the art of in-flight refuelling and transportation of under-slung loads.
The three Merlin Mk4 aircraft, normally based at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset, are embarked in the aircraft carrier for ‘WESTLANT 18’, deploying to the East coast of the USA to embark F-35B fighter jets for the very first time.
The squadron’s primary role is as the Helicopter Delivery Service, or HDS, transporting personnel, stores and equipment to, from and between the Task Group ships to keep everything running smoothly.
Their first ‘VERTREP’, or Vertical Replenishment was achieved, mid Atlantic, with an under-slung load, attached to an airborne aircraft, which would then be transferred to another location.
This was followed by a Helicopter In Flight Fuelling, otherwise known as HIFR – where the aircraft is fuelled through hoses connected to the ship whilst airborne, meaning it does not have to land and shut down and can stay on task.
| British Armed Forces News
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Photographer: Arron Hoare