No announcement yet.

Fleet Air Arm News

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • #31

    Royal Navy Westland Sea King HU5 XZ920 24 of 771 Naval Air Squadron as seen during a SAR display at the Dawlish Airshow on 23rd August 2014 (Photo: Mark Kwiatkowski)

    Editor's Note:
    So sad that the days of the Sea King are all but done. And sadder still that the British government have elected to privatise UK SAR ops thus excluding the armed forces from gaining valuable (some would say necessary) experience and disallowing them from delivering what was one of their finest public services.


    • #32
      Trio of Sea Kings Reach 45 Years Service

      In true Naval fashion a small glass has been raised at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in celebration of the remarkable careers of three of its legendry Sea King helicopters.

      The trio have each clocked up over 45 years of Fleet Air Arm service and were among the first batch to arrive on 700 (Sea King) Naval Air Squadron (700 (S) NAS at RNAS Culdrose in August 1969.

      Built by Westland Helicopters at Yeovil, these Sea Kings was originally designated Helicopter Anti-submarine Mk 1s (HAS Mk 1) and have morphed through several configurations over their long and distinguished careers. Two are now Sea King Mk 5s, XV 647, and XV 648 with 771 NAS for Search and Rescue duties and XV 649 has been modified into a Mk 7 ASaC, the Airborne Surveillance version of the Sea King. All three are still operational and still pulling their weight on the flight-line.

      XV648 landing trials on RFA Engadine

      700 (S) NAS with Lieutenant Commander Vic Sirett as Commanding Officer took delivery of six Sea King HAS 1s for trials and development. Each aircraft went on to achieve over400 hours flying in their primary Anti-submarine role in addition to load lifting, Search & Rescue, deck landings, troop carrying and the use of the general purpose machine gun. By the beginning of 1970 the Sea King had started to enter operational service. 706 Squadron received the new aircraft in January to replace its Wessex Mk 3s and the first front line squadron to operate the type, 824Squadron reformed on 24February.

      The Sqn disbanded in May 1970 shortly after Vic Sirett demonstrated in XV 649 the Sea King’s long range capability, flying non-stop from Lands End to John O’Groats, a distance of nearly 700 miles in 4 hours and 19 minutes. For the flight and the successful introduction of the Sea King into RN Service, Lt Cdr Vic Sirett was awarded the Boyd trophy for 1970. By June 826 Squadron reformed with the Sea King and 824 Squadron embarked HMS Ark Royal for the aircraft’s first operational deployment.

      Aircrew of 700 Squadron in 1969​

      The service histories of these particular Sea Kings are testament to the versatility of the aircraft over the years. Beginning as HAS Mk 1’s they were upgraded to HAS Mk2s in the 70s and then two were converted to HAS Mk5s and XV 649 to an Airborne Early Warning asset then a Sea King ASaC Mk 7, the final variation of Sea King.

      “These aircraft were built from 1950s technology, the hydraulic systems are as reliable today as they were in 1969, which could these days be considered simple technology, however if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”, said Warrant Officer Ian Mitchell ,WO Engineer with 771 NAS and has worked on Sea Kings for most of his Naval career. “XV647 and XV648 have stood the test of time well, they’ve transformed from Mk 1s to Mk 5s having all sorts of modifications fitted and removed, even to this day we are still fitting new equipment”.

      MaritimeSeaKing Commander at RNAS Culdrose, CDR Vee Dale-Smith, herself a Sea King pilot has flown them at Culdrose and on Operations in the Middle East. “As the Sea King comes to the end of its service with the Fleet Air Arm, these three Aircraft typify the excellence of the original concept and design. Over the past 45 years these three in particular have served all over the world on operations and embarked on all Royal Navy’s capital ships. Without doubt, everyone who has had the privilege to work with the Sea King over the years has developed a unique bond and loyalty to this fabulous helicopter and will have many an interesting tale to tell of their experiences”.

      Sea King XV649 performs a crew transfer with a Polaris submarine in the South Western approaches

      Between the three they have nearly amassed 50,000 flying hours which has seen them flown across the world where ever the Fleet Air Arm has ventured; from Carrier Task Group tasking in the Falkland’s during 1982 to providing “Over-watch” during 2014in Afghanistan, flying in temperatures that range from minus 35 degrees in the Arctic to over plus 50 degrees in desert conditions.

      Sea King helicopters will be decommissioning over the next two years from the Fleet Air Arm and replaced by New Merlin Mk 2s and “Merlin Crowsnest” - which will take over the Airborne Surveillance task for the Fleet, serving on the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers.


      • #33
        New Heliport Planned for Devonport Naval Base

        Royal Navy officials are spending £4million on a new city helipad – after losing the one they used when Plymouth City Airport closed.

        Since the airport’s closure in 2011 Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) has been forced to fly between Newquay Airport and HMS Raleigh in Torpoint.

        Defence chiefs say this has caused “significant complication” to training schedules, and could easily have effected the efficiency of the entire Royal Navy fleet.

        Now in a bid to save time and money, the Royal Navy has submitted plans for a new purpose-built site in Devonport Naval Base.

        A single-spot helipad, a passenger and staff facilities, a refuelling facility, and parking provisions are all included in the plan for Kinterbury Point.

        ​A Royal Navy Dauphin (operated by BIH) on FOST duties

        The site will be used by the Fleet Helicopter Support Unit (FHSU) which supports Operational Sea Training transporting personnel to, from and between ships at sea.

        “By providing helicopter landing and take-off facilities within easy reach of FOST HQ in Devonport, the service provided can be restored to its former standard,” it states in a report supporting the application.

        The report states that training chiefs at FOST are losing about 350 hours of the 1,500-hour working programme by simply transiting to HMS Raleigh twice a day.

        “This is clearly sub-optimal and an inefficient use of a valuable resource and clearly not sustainable in the medium to long term,” it adds.

        As well as replacing facilities previously available at Plymouth City Airport, the new site will also replace other helicopter landing facilities at Weston Mill Lake which closed in April 2012.

        “In the interim helicopters have, as a temporary measure, been using a pre-existing helicopter landing site at HMS Raleigh as a Forward Operating Base coupled with an aircraft maintenance facility that has been established at Newquay Airport,” the report goes on to say.

        “Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) South is the lead for collective training for ships of the Royal Navy, Royal Fleet Auxiliary and many foreign navies.

        “Training takes place across a wide range of activities from basic sea training to full blown mission rehearsals to prepare ships and their crews for operations worldwide.

        “FOST South is an essential part of ensuring that the units deployed overseas for operations are ready to fight and win.”

        The report states that the “effective delivery” of FOST is a “fundamental building block upon” which the operational effectiveness of the Fleet is based.

        “Any erosion of the efficiency in how ships are prepared for their operational tasks directly effects the efficiency of the fleet,” it adds.

        Ecological concerns associated with the operation of FOST from HMS Raleigh due to its proximity to Special Protection Areas at St John’s Lake and the Tamar and Lynher Estuary Complex are also highlighted.

        Other sites at Ernesettle, Bull Point and Scraesdon Fort were also considered but Devonport Naval Base was selected.

        A spokesperson for the Defence Infrastructure Organisation said: “Should planning permission be granted, the project would be due to start on site early in 2015, with completion anticipated around August 2015.

        “The estimated cost is approximately £4million.”

        The spokesperson several buildings will need to be demolished to allow the scheme to take place, as well as a brick-built bunker.

        “Prior to submission of the planning application, an environmental assessment was carried out and English Heritage, which was consulted due to the presence of a Scheduled Ancient Monument nearby, has approved the plans,” the spokesperson added.

        On average, 60 flights a month will take off and land at the site.


        • #34
          Admiral Zambellas Inspects Wildcat

          The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas has taken his first flight in the Navy's latest helicopter over the Somerset skies.

          He was visiting Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, home of the Maritime version of the Wildcat helicopter, and home of the new Wildcat Training Centre, yesterday.

          First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas, with Lieutenant Simon Wilson at RNAS Yeovilton on 3rd October 2014 after completing a flight in the Royal Navy's new AW159 Wildcat helicopter

          Sir George joined pilot Lieutenant Simon Wilson and Lieutenant Commander Mike Wingfield, observer, on a demonstration flight. The aircraft is, like its predecessor the Lynx, made by AgustaWestland just five miles away at Yeovil.

          After the sortie, the First Sea Lord said: "That was a fantastic experience. I've flown many hours in the Lynx and, while the airframe of the Wildcat looks like that of a Lynx; that is the end of the similarity. The Wildcat is our newest maritime helicopter and the capability advance offered to the Fleet is immense. I look forward to seeing 825 Squadron develop the full range of capabilities and deployment of the helicopter to front-line operations in early 2015."

          It is envisaged the Wildcat will provide the aerial eyes of the Royal Navy's frigates and destroyers for the next 25 years.


          • #35
            Culdrose Crew Honoured

            The crew of a search and rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose have received an award for bravery at a national awards ceremony hosted by the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society. It follows the rescue of five fishermen from a sinking French trawler off the Lizard coast last year.

            The crew from 771 Squadron are to be presented with the Edward and Maisie Lewis Award by the Society’s patron Princess Ann, The Princess Royal.

            The crew members are pilot Kapitänleutnant Steffen Volkwein (on exchange from the German Navy), co-pilot Lieutenant Paul Smalley, observer Lieutenant Commander Paul Robertson and aircrewman Petty Officer Mark Richardson.

            On November 3 last year, 2013, the crew took part in the gallant rescue of five fishermen from sinking French trawler Panamera. The boat began sinking in atrocious conditions, with high winds and in near complete darkness and with no visible horizon.

            Honoured: Steffen Volkwein, Mark Richardson, Paul Robertson and Paul Smalley​

            This was made worse by the failure of their aircraft’s floodlights and a language barrier between the French fishermen and the English speaking air crew.

            Despite these problems and with only seconds remaining before the boat sank, the crew managed to get all five fishermen safely to shore.

            Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society Chief Executive, Commodore Malcolm Williams, said: “This incident epitomises the unique mixture of leadership, teamwork, skill and bravery that enables these crews to effect such amazing rescues.

            “Despite technological advances, we still rely upon the bravery of rescue crews and individuals to help those in danger around our coast. We are proud to be able to reward the gallantry of those who risk their lives for the safety of others.”

            At the same awards ceremony, another member of 771 Squadron, Russell Adams was also to be presented with a commendation by the princess for his role in a separate rescue in February.


            • #36
              RFA Argus Off To Sierra Leone

              The Falmouth based hospital ship Royal Fleet Auxiliary Argus and three Merlin helicopters from RNAS Culdrose are being sent to West Africa to help deal with the Ebola outbreak.

              The RFA Argus hospital ship is soon to leave for Sierre Leone

              The RFA Argus is expected into Falmouth in the next couple of days to stock up with supplies before leaving for Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, and could be used to evacuate British casualties.

              She will be carrying 250 military personnel who will support the helicopters, aircrew and engineers and provide transport support to medical teams and aid experts.

              A Royal Navy Merlin prepares to take off from the RFA Argus. Three Merlins will be aboard the Argus for the West African operation

              The Prime Minister made the decision to send the Argus and helicopters after chairing a meeting of Cobra.

              The latest figures show 3,879 people have died in the West African epidemic. The vast majority of deaths have been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where 879 have died.


              • #37
                One of the Royal Navy Merlins due to depart on the RFA Argus (see story above) for Sierra Leone was seen yesterday in Falmouth Bay practicing a hovering manoeuvre. The over-water sortie was filmed at sunset and with Pendennis Castle just visible in the background:


                • #38
                  HMS Clyde Passes Flight Deck Inspections

                  September and early October have been a busy five weeks for the smallest ship in the Royal Navy with a flight deck.

                  September kicked off with a visit from the ‘Trappers’ – the Flag Officer Sea Training Aviation team, who provide the external assurance that HMS Clyde is safe to conduct aviation operations.

                  The ship had her Aviation facilities inspected, routines checked and the worst case scenario of a crash on deck was put through a ‘Table Top Tactics’ exercise, before a full crash exercise scenario was run out on a September afternoon.

                  A BIH S-61N prepares to land on HMS Clyde

                  Two procedural flying exercises were then conducted, including night flying, giving Clyde the all important ‘Safe’ assessment.

                  With the tests successfully passed, Clyde’s busy programme has seen her flight deck visited by British International helicopters who provide a lift-and-shift facility for military personnel and stores around the Falkland Islands.

                  Clyde also saw frequent overflights by ‘Albert’ the RAF C130 Hercules that conducts Maritime Reconnaissance Patrols for Commander British Forces, and took part in exercises with a Lynx flight from HMS Iron Duke.

                  One of Clyde’s most important capabilities to assist the Search and Rescue flight is that of Helicopter In Flight Refuelling (HIFR).

                  The vessel can refuel an aircraft if it is too rough to land on deck. Clyde’s flight deck team can connect a fuel hose to the aircraft winch which is then winched and fitted into the fuelling point on the aircraft. The flight deck team then pumps fuel from the ship to the helicopter’s tanks without the aircraft setting down on the deck. This capability is practiced regularly and is of vital importance in poor weather conditions.


                  • #39
                    SAR King Pops In To Polwhele

                    Polwhele House Preparatory School in Truro held a ‘People Who Help Us' day, on Friday 19thSeptember, as a chance for its Pre-Prep students to learn about members of the community who provide help to others.

                    Visitors included the Royal Navy's Search and Rescue Sea King helicopter. Both the Pre-Prep and Prep pupils were able to explore and learn about the role of the helicopter and its crew when it landed on the school's tennis courts.

                    Polwhele pupils Poppy and Jacob with Lieutenant Alex Stevenson

                    Other guests included representatives from the RNLI, a local GP, a vet, a dentist and a Police Community Support Officer.

                    Talks outlined the visitors' roles in the surrounding area and the way in which their jobs can have an impact on the lives of those within the community. There were many demonstrations from the speakers who showed their specialist equipment for the children to see and handle.

                    Helen McCullough, Year 2 teacher at Polwhele House, arranged the day, saying: "It is fantastic that our pupils will get the chance to learn about the role of these community services through the ‘People Who Help Us' day, as it is really important that they are recognised and appreciated. We feel that even our very youngest children should be aware of the people in our community ‘who help us', as well as the services they might potentially encounter in our coastal community."

                    Four out of the six visitors were parents of pupils at Polwhele House, meaning that the event was a real community effort, coming together for the benefit of the children.

                    Other hosted events at the school include cake sales, parent cocktail evenings and school productions - the proceeds of which go to local charities such as South West Equine Protection, Truro Food Bank and Cornwall Air Ambulance.

                    Alex McCullough, Headmaster of Polwhele House, was delighted with the event and was pleased to see pupils interacting with members of the community. He commented: "We want to connect with our local community in order to enhance our children's understanding of the world around them. We are keen to continue with events like the ‘People Who Help Us' day in order to strengthen this link.”


                    • #40
                      Argyll's Lynx Involved in Post-Hurricane Recovery Ops

                      A Lynx from HMS Argyll has been involved in post-hurricane recovery operations in the wake of Hurricane Gonzalo after it hit Bermuda.

                      Video shows the departure and return of a Navy Lynx from the helideck of HMS Argyll while moored in Port Bermuda:


                      • #41
                        Osprey Lands On HMS Bulwark During Exercise Cougar Voyage

                        Royal Marines were carried into ‘battle’ by a new steed when they tried out the US Marine Corps’ stunning Osprey as Britain’s task group trained with the Americans and Kuwaitis in the Gulf.

                        It was the first time for the tilt-rotor aircraft to set down on the deck of Britain’s flagship, HMS Bulwark, and which happened during Exercise Cougar Voyage as UK and US amphibious task forces linked up.

                        A US Marine Corps V-22 Osprey lands on HMS Bulwark during Exercise Cougar Voyage

                        Bulwark is heading the UK Response Force Task Group on its annual Cougar deployment involving 3 Commando Brigade, while USS Makin Island is the flagship of Amphibious Squadron 5 and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

                        Three times the size of HMS Bulwark, the 42,000-tonne Wasp-class assault ship is the home to a dozen Ospreys – the world’s first tilt-rotor aircraft, it can land, take off and hover like a helicopter, then can fly like a traditional propeller-driven aircraft at speeds over 300mph and heights above 25,000ft once airborne.

                        Royal Marines board the Osprey during the exercise

                        "It is an amazing aircraft and to be able to see it land on our flight deck for the first time was fantastic" said Naval Airman Brent Richardson.

                        The unique aircraft has paid infrequent visits to Royal Navy aircraft carriers over the past decade – but never before to Bulwark, so its arrival drew a lot of attention from the ship’s company.

                        “It is an amazing aircraft and to be able to see it land on our flight deck for the first time was fantastic,” said Naval Airman (Aircraft Handler) Brent Richardson.

                        HMS Bulwark

                        “The downwash from a Merlin helicopter is pretty strong but this was off the scale!”

                        As part of the week-long ground, air and amphibious Cougar Voyage exercise, US Marines joined their Green Beret counterparts from the Royal Marines aboard support ship RFA Lyme Bay for combined training.

                        “Cougar Voyage has been an ideal opportunity to demonstrate and practise the ability of our forces to work together and deliver training between us and our partners involved in the exercise,” said Royal Marine Lieutenant Colonel Martin Collin, deployed with HMS Bulwark as part of the staff of Commander UK Task Group.

                        “Operating with unusual aircraft like the Osprey also enhances the capabilities of our task group.”

                        Mid-exercise, Bulwark hosted some 150 students from Kuwait’s Mubarak al-Abdullah Joint Command and Staff College whilst at anchor off Kuwait City.

                        Arriving by landing craft, the staff and students were able to witness a variety of amphibious demonstrations and listen to a series of briefings during their visit.

                        “There is a traditionally strong relationship between the British and Kuwaiti Armed Forces so it is a real privilege for me to welcome our Kuwaiti colleagues on-board HMS Bulwark,” said the flagship’s Commanding Officer Captain Dean Bassett.

                        “By exercising together and sharing our knowledge and experience afloat, our ability to work together in the future can only benefit as a result.”


                        • #42
                          Merlin Mk2 Trains with HMS St. Albans

                          For the first time since emerging from a £25m revamp in her Portsmouth base, HMS St. Albans a Type 23 frigate, has been training with the Merlin Mk2.

                          The helicopter joined the warship for three days of training off the south coast as the frigate readied herself to return to frontline duties after being out of action for a year.

                          Beneath gloomy skies Petty Officer Nicole Mackie guides a Merlin Mk2 to the flight deck of HMS St Albans

                          Commander Catherine Jordan, the commanding officer of HMS St Albans, and a former Lynx helicopter navigator and weapons specialist said: ‘It’s apt to have the upgraded Merlin on board what is now the most up to date Type 23 in the fleet. ‘As a former Lynx observer I understand the additional capability a helicopter and its team bring to a frigate. ‘The Merlin Mk2 is a very versatile aircraft keeping us at the forefront of tactical development.’

                          The Royal Navy says the pairing represents the ultimate combination of submarine hunters, combining the warship’s upgrades with the technology of the new helicopter.

                          Helping to ensure the 14-tonne helicopter touched down safely on the flight deck were PO Mackie and Engineering Technician (Weapon Engineering) Matt Briggs.

                          ET Briggs normally looks after the ship’s hi-tech weapons and sensors but is also earning qualifications to become one of the flight deck team. He said: ‘Working with such a large aircraft was fantastic. ‘It only just fits on the flight deck and it is so powerful. ‘I have seen plenty of deck landings of the Lynx but this was just awesome.’

                          Training with the helicopter began after HMS St Albans was involved in rescuing a stricken yachtsman in the Channel. Her ship’s company chanced upon the trimaran 18 miles south of Portland.

                          Lieutenant Commander Lauren Hulston, the Merlin’s flight commander, said: ‘The time with St Albans has given the flight the opportunity to integrate with a Type 23. ‘I am very much looking forward to working up with HMS St Albans and delivering a potent war fighting capability with a very capable anti-submarine warfare frigate and Merlin Mk2 operating together.’


                          • #43
                            HMS Argyll: The Drug Buster!

                            HMS Argyll has seized cocaine worth at least £10 million from a yacht in the Caribbean - just 24 hours after helping in the aftermath of a hurricane (see post #40).

                            HMS Argyll effortlessly switched from conducting relief duties in Bermuda, where she had been assisting authorities with damage caused by Hurricane Gonzalo,
                            to patrolling against narcotics trafficking.

                            While on patrol the crew of the ship’s Lynx helicopter spotted a 'suspicious' yacht in the Atlantic and alerted HMS Argyll which then intercepted the craft.

                            The crew of HMS Argyll's Lynx helicopter spotted this yacht and reported their suspicions of possible narcotics trafficking

                            A search by the US Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment, working from HMS Argyll, uncovered 10 bales of cocaine.

                            10 bales of cocaine, with a street value exceeding £10m, were discovered aboard the Lynx-sighted yacht

                            The drugs, which had a wholesale value of £10 million, were confiscated before the two crew members were taken into custody.

                            Sailors from HMS Argyll carrying the seized drug bales following a successful counter narcotics operation​ by HMS Argyll (Faces have been blurred by the UK's MoD)

                            Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “This is yet another clear demonstration of the flexibility and versatility of the Royal Navy. “HMS Argyll and her crew are playing a key role in disrupting the drugs trade which blights the UK. The British people should be proud of the work that they undertake on our behalf.”

                            The bust was HMS Argyll’s second in two months, having seized £21 million in cocaine in August.

                            The Type 23 frigate, based in Plymouth, is operating as part of a 15-nation collaboration to deny criminal organisations access to regions of Central America.

                            The focus of the collaboration is to prevent the illegal movement of drugs from South America to the western world.

                            HMS Argyll

                            HMS Argyll’s Commanding Officer, Commander Paul Hammond, said: “I am extremely proud of my ship’s company; we put in a significant effort to assist the citizens of Bermuda and to sail and immediately conduct a slick interception of a drug smuggling vessel demonstrates dedication and the utmost professionalism.”

                            Able Seaman Specialist Alex “JR” Hartley added: “Life on board is hectic at the moment, I was involved in working ashore to help the locals in Bermuda after Hurricane Gonzalo and the next day I drove one of our boats out to intercept a yacht with drugs on it.

                            “This is just typical of our deployment to be honest, life is challenging but rewarding onboard HMS Argyll right now.”


                            • #44

                              Kingfishers Celebrate 10th Anniversary

                              829 Naval Air Squadron "The Kingfishers" are celebrating their 10th anniversary since recommissioning as a squadron in 2004. But they are not waiting for a party to start with such a full programme ahead to keep them occupied.

                              Over the past 10 years the squadron is known for being one of the busiest at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, they are continually on the move; whether at Sea, returning from Sea or preparing for Sea.

                              The squadron provides helicopters for operations across the Globe on some of the Royal Navy’s Type-23 Frigates and Type 45 destroyers.

                              They operate around a Flight system consisting of a Headquarters for continuation training & administration and six independent Flights. They each have a single Merlin helicopter with two pilots, an observer and an aircrewman for flying duties and seven engineers to maintain the aircraft.

                              A Merlin Mk1 from 829 Naval Air Squadron, based at RNAS Culdrose, flies along the Cornish coastline

                              Whilst Merlin’s primary role is Anti-Submarine Warfare the versatile aircraft often finds itself engaged in a wide variety of roles, reacting to tasking often at very short notice.

                              Due to its size, speed and proven capability Merlin is also used in Maritime Security Operations. It is large enough to carry Royal Marines for sniper operations and boarding via fast roping, both which are vital to counter the threat of pirates. It is also fitted with a heavy machine gun as well as thermal imaging equipment and a variety of other sensors.

                              "829 Squadron has a proud history of service on frigates and destroyers over the past decade" said Lieutenant Commander Philip Beacham, Commanding Officer 829 Naval Air Squadron, adding “A Royal Navy Ship along with its Merlin helicopter is a proven, potent and effective fighting force.”

                              The 10th Anniversary also co-insides with the final flight for The Kingfishers last Merlin Mk 1, before being replaced by its updated brother and making the squadron fully Merlin Mk 2 equipped.

                              “Operating from a pitching and rolling flight deck on the back of a Royal Navy ship somewhere in the North Atlantic can be very challenging,” said Lt Cdr Amy Gaunt, 05 Flight Commander who are attached to type 23 frigate HMS Westminster.

                              “Being integral to the Ship’s Company and working closely with the Ship’s Ops room can be very rewarding and satisfying. The Merlin performs well on several levels. Soon 05 Flight will lose its Mk 1 for an upgraded Mk 2.

                              "From the outside they look pretty much the same, apart from a few aerials and sensors, but a glimpse inside reveals a totally new world of awe!”

                              The vastly upgraded avionics of Merlin Mk2 brings an awful lot to future operations whether sub-hunting or as was proven last year when an 829 NAS Merlin was deployed on Cougar 2013.

                              Embarked with HMS Illustrious 01 Flight was reaching the final stages of its deployment, when they were re-tasked to support the UK efforts on Operation Patwin in the Philippines.

                              Within hours of arriving in the area they were airborne carrying out reconnaissance flights over the Islands hit by Typhoon Haiyan. Assessing the devastation and deploying response teams to isolated villages, in some cases being the first to arrive.

                              CO, Lt Cdr Phil Beacham added, “In some ways the loss of our last Mk 1 Merlin on 829 is a little sad, however, what it really denotes is the start of a really exiting and rewarding era for the Squadron and Merlin Force. 829 is an immensely capable Squadron and we relish the challenges and opportunities which Merlin Mk2 will allow us to fulfil in the future.”


                              • #45
                                Wings on the Hoof!

                                A Royal Navy pilot from West Lothian has been awarded his Wings in the first ceremony of its kind in over 30 years.

                                Lieutenant Barry Barkey (29) from West Calder, took part in a presentation with four fellow trainees.

                                And the event took place while they were on active operation – the first time this has happened since the Falklands War.

                                The five helicopter pilots, normally based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, were due to round off their intense training course on Royal Fleet Auxiliary aviation support ship RFA Argus.

                                Lieutenant Barry Barkey receiving his wings

                                However, at the last minute, the ship was redeployed to Sierra Leone by the Department for International Development (DfID) and the Ministry of Defence to help tackle the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

                                With only a few weeks of training left, a decision was taken to send the five pilots with the ship and now that all are qualified they are expected to begin operational duties within days.

                                Captain David Eagles, commanding officer of RFA Argus, described it as a “unique situation”, one that had not been witnessed in over 30 years.

                                As a result a formal Wings parade was held on the ship’s flight deck attended by RFA, Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel with embarked members of the Royal Marines Band Service adding to the occasion.

                                Captain Eagles said: “It was an absolute privilege to carry out this presentation on Argus. This training was scheduled to take place onboard but under very different circumstances and conditions. I believe that this is the first time since the Falklands War that we have carried out training en route to an operation, so this is a unique situation. The conditions out here are quite challenging so these five men, and the training team, have done remarkably well and I wish them every success in their future careers.”

                                Lieutenant Barkey said: “Prior to deployment we all spent a lot of time training both in the air and in the helicopter simulators at Culdrose, but nothing beats flying in an operational environment. The night time deck landings en route to Sierra Leone were very challenging, however our training prepares us to be ready to react to whatever the day gives us.”

                                RFA Argus sailed from Falmouth on October 17 to provide logistical support in the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone.

                                Onboard are three Merlin Mk2 helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron that have begun working around the clock to provide rapid transportation for British medical teams and engineers as well as moving equipment and stores. The five new pilots will now begin flying operations in support of this mission.

                                Commander Ross Spooner, Commanding Officer of 820 Naval Air Squadron said: “It was a rather surreal experience to host a Wings Parade on board a ship off the West coast of Africa instead of at Culdrose, but I must acknowledge the effort and challenges they overcame to receive their wings and thanks need to be given to the excellent training team that guided them every step of the way on this journey.Then there is the support of their families and friends back home who couldn’t be with us on the day of the parade but know the valuable role they will have to play here in Sierra Leone.”


                                • #46
                                  Rotary Wing Aviation talk being given in Penarth, Wales

                                  Edward Oliver, a former Chief Petty Officer who spent 28 years in the Fleet Air Arm working as an engineer/technician, will be speaking about his Naval flying experiences at a meeting of the Penarth Aviation Society to be held at the Penarth Conservative Club on 9th January.

                                  A Westland Wasp from Edward's days at sea

                                  Edward's service in the Fleet Air Arm saw him aboard numerous ships including HMS Intrepid, Hydra and Hermes as well as expeditions to the Arctic and warmer climes.




                                  • #47
                                    RN 'SAR King' Requires Rescue!

                                    A Royal Navy Sea King which has rescued many casualties from the Scottish highlands and islands had to be rescued itself after suffering a mechanical fault during a search on Ben Nevis.

                                    The search and rescue Sea King, call sign "Rescue 177" based at HMS Gannet at Prestwick Airport, had to be dismantled and placed on two lorries to be transported back to its base for repairs.

                                    The aircraft developed a fault while on a mission to airlift members of the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team to the CIC Hut on Ben Nevis who were searching for two climbers reported missing when they failed to return from a day out on the 4,409ft peak.

                                    Another Royal Navy helicopter, "Rescue 178", was brought in to complete the operation on Sunday. The two climbers were found safe and well walking out of Observatory Gully, totally unaware that they had been reported missing.

                                    Mountain rescue team leader John Stevenson said: “The demanding conditions when dropping off team members at the CIC Hut unfortunately caused a technical failure to Rescue 177. Thanks to some great airmanship, they were able to land at the team base in Glen Nevis safely.”

                                    A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The helicopter was grounded due to a mechanical fault that occurred during the rescue on Sunday. “It is being transported by road to Prestwick, where it will be serviced and returned to service as soon as possible.” He added that HMS Gannet was able to continue to provide search and rescue cover while Rescue 177 was out of action using a back-up helicopter.

                                    It is understood that the rotor blades dipped sharply while the helicopter was landing in poor weather conditions, causing the outside of the blades to strike an air intake.

                                    The MoD spokesman added: “It is a rare occurrence. It is not unusual for them to have faults – all mechanical engines can develop faults – but we can normally get a road crew to repair the helicopter where it is. On this occasion, they were unable to do this. The only other time this has happened was in October 2013 when a helicopter developed a fault in Glencoe.”

                                    Photos of Rescue 177 being dismantled and loaded onto a truck at Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team base in Fort William prior to be 'roaded' to HMS Gannet: