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From frigate to frégate… Lynx team joins French warship on deployment
19 October 2012

A Fleet Air Arm Lynx will go pirate hunting next month aboard a French warship – the latest sign of increasing co-operation between the two navies.

217 Flight with their Lynx Mk8 from 815 Naval Air Squadron will spend four months operating from the French frigate Surcouf keeping modern-day buccaneers in check off the Horn of Africa.

217 Flight in front of their Lynx Mk 8 – marked up FLF (Frégate Légère Furtive – light stealth frigate) Surcouf ready for their new mission. Bottom Row kneeling (l-r): AETs Stefan Penney, Sam Drury and Matt Hughes; standing (l-r) AET Steve Arnold, PO Keith Armitage, Lt Chris Southworth, Lt Mike Curd, CPO ‘Cakey’ Eccles and PO Richard Corbett. Picture: LA(Phot) Abbie Herron, HMS Heron

A FRENCH warship will go pirate-busting with a Royal Navy helicopter next when a Lynx Flight deploys aboard the frigate Surcouf to the Indian Ocean.

The flight with its Lynx Mk8 from 815 Naval Air Squadron based at Yeovilton will spend four months on Operation Atalanta, the European Union’s contribution to the international fight against piracy off the Horn of Africa.

Surcouf typically deploys with a Eurocopter Panther or NH90 NATO Frigate Helicopter on the back.

But as a result of growing co-operation between the two Navies – evidenced this month by the large-scale Anglo-French exercise off Corsica involving, inter alia, the flagships of the RN and Marine Nationale – when she leaves Toulon in late November for a four-month stint off the Horn of Africa she’ll do so with 217 Flight on board.

Beyond the usual pre-deployment training the dozen-strong team – observer/flight commander Lt Mike Curd, pilot Lt Chris Southworth, senior maintenance rating CPO Matthew ‘Cakey’ Eccles and seven technicians, plus two Royal Marines snipers – have undergone a 15-week language course to improve their French.

The Flight's home for the next five months - the La Fayette class frigate FS Surcouf

And in July some of the Flight plus their bosses at Lynx Helicopter Force HQ in Yeovilton visited Toulon to get to know the Surcouf and meet her commanding officer, Capitaine de frégate (Commander) Hughes Laine.

The Flight arrive in Surcouf’s home port on Monday to begin a four-week period of training before FS Surcouf heads est de Suez.

“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 to be doing it in such unusual circumstances,” said Lt Curd.

As well as dealing with the piracy scourge, the Surcouf and other EU vessels will provide protection for the United Nations’ aid programme delivering food to the impoverished people of Somalia.

217 Flight will be away over Christmas and the New Year, returning home to Yeovilton in March 2013.