Thought this would be posted by now
Yesterday marked the end of an era for the Royal Air Force and the start of a new one for the Royal Navy as the official handover of the Merlin helicopter took place in a formal ceremony at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire.
The formal Royal parade marked the next stage in the transition of the Merlin helicopter from the Support Helicopter Force to the Commando Helicopter Force, a move that was introduced in the Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Since 2012, aircrew and engineers from the Commando Helicopter Force of the Royal Navy have been integrated into the Merlin Force at RAF Benson; working alongside their Royal Air Force counterparts to absorb over a decade of experience of operating and maintaining the technologically advanced aircraft.
The ceremony was attended by Their Royal Highnesses The Duke of York, the Commodore-in-Chief of the Fleet Air Arm, and Prince Michael of Kent, Honorary Air Marshal of Royal Air Force Benson.
Having been successfully employed on RAF operations in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan and capable of carrying up to 24 fully equipped troops, the Merlin is ideally placed to transfer to the littoral role undertaken by the Commando Helicopter Force.
The transition programme saw 78 Squadron RAF disband and 846 Naval Air Squadron stand up. 846 NAS will remain at RAF Benson until Spring next year when they and several of the Merlin aircraft will return to the home of the Commando Helicopter Force, Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in Somerset.
Transition will continue at RAF Benson when 845 Naval Air Squadron will stand up in place of 28 (Army Cooperation) Squadron RAF later in 2015. When fully operational, 845 Squadron will also return home to Yeovilton to reunite the fleet.