RFA choppers put on display over Grand Cayman

The thunderous sound of helicopters in flight broke the still morning air over Grand Cayman on Tuesday as pilots from UK Naval ship RFA Argus and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Air Ops Unit conducted a reconnaissance exercise.

It followed the Royal Navy Caribbean task group ship’s arrival in the Cayman Islands area on Monday. RFA Argus is one of two ships that have been deployed to the Caribbean for the hurricane season.

A Governor’s Office statement on Tuesday said the RCIPS helicopter met the Navy helicopters airborne and conducted a familiarisation over the radio in loose formation.

They looked for key areas and landing sites in preparation for the upcoming hurricane season and the usual general brief of the islands.

This year, due to the COVID-19 situation, the crew will not set foot on the islands during the ship’s visit, nor will it be receiving visitors on board, as has been the practice in the past.

Instead, the crew flew two helicopters around Grand Cayman as part of the reconnaissance exercise and later took part in a drugs-interdiction exercise with Joint Marine Unit vessels.

No landings were made.

RFA Argus carries three Merlin helicopters and one Wildcat helicopter on board.

On Tuesday, one of the Merlins and the Wildcat joined the RCIPS H145 helicopter to conduct the exercises. A fly-over was planned for Cayman Brac when RFA Argus made its way there later Tuesday.

The statement from the Governor’s Office said the vessel also has disaster-relief stores on board, as well as Royal Engineers and other specialist personnel who can help with repairing and restoring vital services.

“As standard procedure, the ship will remain in the region during hurricane season as vital support if needed,” the statement added.

RFA Argus is the replacement ship for RFA Mounts Bay, which for the past three years carried out hurricane-relief exercises on Seven Mile Beach and supported the region after a number of hurricanes hit, including Maria, Irma and Dorian, the statement said.

The Governor’s Office said RFA Argus’s task is distinct from the mission of the Security Assistance Team that recently arrived from the UK.

“The SAT are here to assist the Cayman Islands Government to plan and to mitigate against any security issues caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The team are already engaging with local officials through virtual meetings while in quarantine,” it stated.

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