A squadron from RNAS Culdrose has rejoined the UK's new warship HMS Queen Elizabeth to take part in further sea training ready for its first official deployment next year.

Aircrew, engineers, survival equipment technicians and logistics personnel of Helston-based 820 Naval Air Squadron, the “Carrier Squadron”, have embarked with their Merlin Mark 2 helicopters as the ship is put through its paces by the Flag Officer Sea Training organisation - a rigorous test of the ship’s safety, capability and readiness to deploy.

The squadron will become the aircraft carrier's dedicated helicopter squadron when she begins operations next year.

Commander Ian “Reg” Varley, new commanding officer of 820 NAS, said: "I am hugely excited and privileged to be going to sea with my team.

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"We were recently on call supporting the nation’s emergency services and we have just handed that over to another Culdrose squadron so that we can focus on our more traditional purpose which is to defend the UK’s aircraft carrier Task Group.

"In supporting our ships to operate anywhere they are required in the world, 820 NAS is trained and equipped to counter threats from submarines, warships and aircraft - skills that we call anti-submarine warfare and airborne surveillance and control.

"This training period onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth is a valuable part of sharpening our prowess and getting our people and equipment further integrated within the aircraft carrier.”

Keeping the sophisticated Merlin helicopter flying is no small task and is very much a team effort.

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Leading Air Engineering Technician Danielle King, who is one of the squadron’s aircraft engineers, said: “The run up to a major training exercise is a busy period for us.

"The aim is to keep these aircraft capable of flying around the clock, ensuring we can always keep an asset on station hunting the enemy submarine.

"Our number one priority is to keep the aircraft and its crew safe and that means we need to be meticulous in our aircraft maintenance as any mistakes could be costly. It’s hard work but a job I really enjoy doing.”