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  • Fleet Air Arm News

    New CO for 814 NAS

    It’s all change at the top for one of Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose’s leading frontline Merlin Squadrons.

    On 07 January 2014 Commander Stuart Finn assumed command of 814 Naval Air Squadron ‘The Flying Tigers,’ gratefully acceptingthe honour from his predecessor Commander Chris Stock. He takes over the reigns as the Sqn begins a busy year which will see their Merlin MK1’s replaced by Merlin MK 2.

    Coming from a Warfare background he has so far enjoyed a varied naval career including ‘Bridge Watch Keeping’, Navigating Officer duties as well as qualifying as a Ships Diver. Cdr Finn transferred to flying duties as a Royal Navy Observer and was streamed onto the Merlin Maritime Patrol Helicopter.

    Aviation appointments have included service on the Frigates HMS Cumberland, Chatham, Monmouth and the Destroyer HMS Exeter including service in Sierra Leone. He has also operated on the ‘Invincible class Aircraft Carrier’. During his time at Sea Cdr Finn has taken part in operations in the Mediterranean, Middle East and Far East as well as instructing new Aircrew in how to operate the aircraft. Having been directly involved in UK Enhanced Boarding Capability and conducted Counter Piracy Operations off the Somali coastline, he brings with him the essential experience to ensure 814 NAS continues to deliver Maritime Security Operations afloat.
    Cdr Stuart Finn has served previously at RNAS Culdrose on 820 NAS as the Senior Observer and Executive Officer. Prior to assuming Command of 814 NAS he was Executive Assistant to Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Aviation & Carriers) in Navy Command Headquarters in Portsmouth.

    On joining Cdr Stuart Finn said. ‘My initial focus for 2014 is to ensure we continue to support our long-standing commitment to Maritime Security Operations within the Gulf Region and assist our Coalition partner’s efforts in countering illegal activities on the high seas. As Merlin Helicopter Force transitions from Merlin MK1 to MK2 the intention is for 814 NAS to convert to MK2 toward the end of 2014. With the enhanced Operational Capability the MK2 will bring it proves to be an exciting time for my Command’.

  • #2
    RN Flyer Drops in to Former School

    When Chris Southworth made a flying visit to his old primary school the day went down in history as one pupils will definitely remember.

    For the Royal Navy pilot took a break from his duties yesterday to land his Lynx helicopter in the grounds of The Willows Catholic Primary School in Kirkham, near Preston.

    When Chris, now a Lieutenant, learned he was going to be on an exercise in the area he rang his mum Shirley Wilson, who is deputy head at the school.

    The visit was kept a secret from the children but just before the aircraft was due to land the whole school turned out in force.
    Shirley said: “ “We told the children there was a surprise visitor and to bring some wellies to go on the school field, so there was lots of excitement when the helicopter appeared on the horizon.”

    Chris, who left The Willows 25 years ago, said: “I have very fond memories of my time at school so when I found out we were on exercise in the area and my bosses would give permission for us to land on the school grounds
    I was really pleased.“

    I’ve not been back since I was about 10 so rang my mum immediately. She was pleased but then warned me not to mess up the landing.”

    He added: “To fly over Kirkham and then spot all the pupils waving was a real thrill.

    “We often land the Lynx on the back of a small ship so landing on the school field was not too difficult.

    “The children gave us a really warm welcome and it was great to see my mum again. 
“She gave me a tour of the school which was really interesting. Some parts have changed but it still has the same family feel.

    Shirley added: “The faces of the children were amazing and they could see Chris and the crew waving out of the window.”
    She said the whole erupted into a cheer when she gave her son a big hug as he climbed out of the helicopter..

    “I showed him round the school. It’s had lots of work done and we have new uniforms, but he remembered some of the classrooms.

    The proud mum said the children the children were “buzzing for the rest of the day.
    Last edited by Aviafora Newsdesk; 1st February 2014, 08:43.


    • #3
      Merlin Mk3 upgrades for Commando Helicopter Force

      A third of a billion pounds is to be spent turning RAF Merlins into Fleet Air Arm ones to carry the Royal Marines into battle.

      Whitehall today announced a £330m investment in the nation’s Merlin fleet allowing the RAF’s ‘green’ Mk3 models to be converted ready for front-line operations with the Commando Helicopter Force.

      The 25 upgraded Merlins – the Mk4 – will replace the venerable Sea King Mk4s which are due to be retired in two years’ time.
      The RAF Merlin is battle proven after a decade of operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

      It can carry two dozen troops with kit, or in a ‘flying ambulance’ role, 16 casualties on stretchers. It can also lift artillery pieces, Land Rovers, or five tonnes of equipment slung beneath it if required.

      It doesn’t have a sonar and submarine hunting kit like its Royal Navy counterpart – but it does have a stern ramp for troops to climb on and off.

      To convert them for Fleet Air Arm purposes, the 25 helicopters will receive new glass cockpits and avionics, a folding main rotorhead and tail, and improved undercarriage.

      The upgrade was announced by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond on a visit to AgustaWestland in Yeovilton.
      As well as the investment in the Merlin force, the minister also announced a £430m contract to revamp the Army’s Apache gunships for continued operations around the world.

      The double contracts will secure more than 1,000 jobs in UK engineering and manufacturing, with the work being carried out by AgustaWestland at its sites in Yeovil, Suffolk and Hampshire; GE Aviation in Cheltenham, General Dynamics in East Sussex, Selex ES in Luton and APPH Aviation Services in Cheshire.

      “This is also an important step in ensuring our Armed Forces have the best helicopters available, safeguarding the Army’s Attack Helicopter capability – and providing the Royal Navy and Royal Marines with an upgraded, modern Commando Helicopter Force,” said Mr Hammond.

      “The UK defence industry makes an important contribution to the economy, generating revenue of over £22 billion each year and its highly skilled workforce plays a crucial part in growing our economy. This investment will help secure British jobs, providing security to thousands of workers and their families.”

      Royal Navy and Royal Marines air and ground crew are already working and training side-by-side with their RAF counterparts on the green Merlin at RAF Benson.

      The aircraft are due to be formally transferred to the Fleet Air Arm this autumn and will move to the Commando Helicopter Force’s home at RNAS Yeovilton in due course.


      • #4
        For those who missed it ..

        2013 Osprey Trophy Awarded for Fleet Air Arm Excellence

        First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff Sir George Zambellas presented the trophy that is awarded annually to the front-line Lynx Flight that has contributed most to the ethos, reputation and standing of the Lynx Wildcat Maritime Force over the previous year.

        First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff Sir George and Lt Mike Curd

        The First Sea Lord said, “This is a chance to reflect on courage and dedication.”
        The Osprey Trophy was awarded to 217 Flight of 815 Naval Air Squadron at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton, home of the Fleet Air Arm.

        It was given in recognition for their work in preparing for and executing a Deployment embarked in FS Surcouf in support of International Counter Piracy Operations. During their embarkation 12 suspected pirates were intercepted and subsequently prosecuted!

        217 Flight, 815 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Yeovilton

        217 Flight received the Osprey Trophy commissioned in 2007 for the second year running and following on from their successful multinational Libya operation.

        Lieutenant (Lt) Mike Curd RN, Flight Commander was delighted and extremely proud to accept this commemorative Trophy on behalf of his Flight from the First Sea Lord.

        Diverse and demanding challenges, not to mention learning to speak French were met by 217 Flight.

        Lt Mike Curd said “It’s the recognition of all that the team has done and how we pulled together in very different and at times difficult circumstances. It was a challenge and we couldn’t have done it without the whole team which is what makes the recognition of the Osprey Trophy so important. I really enjoyed every aspect of the deployment although at times demanding it was a great experience.”

        The Osprey Trophy was commissioned in 2007, in memory of four members of HMS Portland’s Flight who lost their lives in a Lynx helicopter that crashed off the Lizard peninsula in December 2004.

        The Lynx Wildcat Maritime Force was delighted and honoured to be joined by family members of HMS Portland’s Flight.


        • #5
          UK Speeds Up Sea King Replacement

          London — A planned gap in the British Royal Navy’s air surveillance capability is being reduced by about 18 months after the Defence Ministry agreed to speed up a program to replace Sea King Mark 7 airborne early warning (AEW) helicopters due to go out of service in 2016.

          The decision has resulted in a competition to supply the radar and mission systems for a new AEW capability destined to be fitted to AgustaWestland-built Merlin helicopters moving into full swing. A team from Lockheed Martin’s Mission Systems and Training business and Elta Systems is competing against Thales UK.

          An MoD spokesman said both parties had been “awarded £6.5 million [US $10.6 million] deals to demonstrate and test their competing solutions.”

          A winner is expected to be declared in 2016, the spokesman said.

          On the revised schedule, the in-service date is set for 2018, with initial operating capability planned to be declared the following year.

          The MoD also confirmed that, separate from the radar and mission systems competition, Lockheed Martin UK last year was awarded a £24 million deal to serve as overall prime contractor, running the work to design, develop and demonstrate the program, called Crowsnest.

          According to sources, Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training is believed to be teaming with Israel Aerospace Industries subsidiary Elta to compete against the Thales Cerebrus system, an updated version of the radar used onboard the Sea Kings.
          Lockheed declined to comment on its radar partner.

          Al Potter, the director for Europe at Lockheed’s Mission Systems and Training business, confirmed his company had selected a partner, but said he was not ready to release the name yet.

          The executive said the team had already flown the selected radar on a fixed-wing aircraft as part of the test program. The radar is contained in a pod and is planned to be fitted to existing hard points on the Merlin helicopter.

          At one time, a Northrop Grumman radar using active electronically scanned array technology had been the front-runner for Lockheed’s bid.

          The competition for 10 roll-on/roll-off systems finds Lockheed and Elta pitched against the incumbent supplier, Thales UK.
          The British arm of Thales supplies the Searchwater 2000 radar for a current Sea King surveillance capability which, despite its maritime origins, has seen the chopper widely used by allied forces in landlocked Afghanistan and, before that, Iraq.

          Matt Avison, the Crowsnest director at Thales UK, said the Cerebrus offering would be based on an upgraded version of the radar used on the Sea King.

          “The acceleration decision lends itself to our solution. One of our strengths is based on short-time lines to introduce,” Avison said.

          The Royal Navy has been facing a four-year capability gap between the Sea King airborne surveillance and control helicopters (SKASaCS) being pensioned off and the planned 2020 in-service date of its Merlin-based replacement.

          Under the old timeframe, full operational capability would not have been until 2022 — two years after the new Royal Navy aircraft carrier that the Crowsnest machines were meant to protect enters service.

          Britain is building two 65,000-ton carriers, although due to budget pressures, it may only operate one of the ships. A small order for the first tranche of production F-35B jump-jets, to be operated jointly by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, is expected imminently.

          Flying trials off the deck of the carrier Queen Elizabeth are scheduled for 2018, with the warship gaining full operating capability in 2020.

          Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the “introduction of Crowsnest 18 months early will ensure HMS Queen Elizabeth has the full range of capabilities when it enters service.”

          The MoD admitted in mid-2013 it was looking again at the timing of the Crowsnest program due to concerns over capability, and the need to dovetail better with Queen Elizabeth’s operational timelines.

          In a letter to the Parliamentary Defence Committee, the then-Defence Minister Andrew Robathan confirmed that even though other assets provided a modest amount of surveillance capability, the gap could not be entirely closed.


          • #6
            Merlin on Norwegian cat and mouse adventure

            The eternal battle between hunter and hunted is on again as the Royal Navy’s submarine hunters lock horns with their foe beneath the waves in a major international exercise in the North Sea.

            Three Merlin helicopters from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose have joined their NATO cousins inNorwayfor an 11-day hunt for five submarines lurking off the coast of Stavanger– the ultimate game of cat and mouse.

            As part of ‘Exercise Dynamic Mongoose’ the Culdrose team will work alongside the Norwegian Navy, as well as other European counterparts. Using their state-of-the-art Merlin helicopters, the skills of the aircrew will be tested as they hunt the silent threat below the surface of the sea and protect the ‘Fleet’ from enemies on and above surface.

            Operating from Sola Airbase and HMS KENT, the aircrew will be pursuing hunter-killer class submarines – actively with sonar, and passively by listening to the submarines' movements.

            In addition to two Merlin Mk1 Helicopters which have deployed, the Royal Navy has also sent its newest version of the Merlin helicopter – the very first time that a Merlin Mk2 has been sent overseas. The Merlin fleet, based at Culdrose, is in the midst of a £750m upgrade which will help to keep thehelicopter at the forefront of naval warfare until the end of the 2020s. By deploying the Mk2 to this exercise, aircrew will be able to test its capabilities before it becomes operational later this year.

            The teams of aircrew and engineers from 829 and 820 Naval Air Squadrons will be deployed for the next couple of weeks, swapping their normal Helston home for the dramatic fjords of Norway. HMS KENT’s Merlin Flight, who were already deployed, will continue to patrol UK waters after the exercise in her ongoing role as a high readiness frigate.

            Commander Ben Franklin, Merlin Force Commander, said: “Exercise Dynamic Mongoose provides a fantastic opportunity for our Merlin Squadrons to hone their maritime warfare skills whilst working closely with other NATO, air, surface and sub-surface Forces.We are relishing the opportunity to take part in a testing anti-submarine exercise and show our NATO colleagues just what the Fleet Air Arm and Merlin Helicopter Force is capable of doing.

            “Dynamic Mongoose is a key element of the ongoing need to ensure that the Fleet Air Arm remains at high readiness for operations. It provides the Merlin crews with an excellent opportunity to practice their Anti-Submarine Warfare skills against a variety of exercise ‘adversaries’ not normally encountered in British waters.”


            • #7
              Lynx Duo Return to Yeovilton

              Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton has welcomed home two Lynx Helicopters as they landed together after months away on separate deployments.

              HMS Daring circled the globe, sailing 44,000 miles during a nine-month deployment with Lynx Flight 200 on board and was re tasked mid operation to assist in the Philippines.

              HMS Westminster Lynx Flight returns from a successful 6 ½ month deployment in the Indian Ocean and Gulf conducting maritime security operations, counter piracy and counter narcotics patrols, covering 36,500 nautical miles.

              200 Flight from HMS Daring and 234 Flight from HMS Westminster land at RNAS Yeovilton

              As Flight Commander Joe Harper brings Daring’s Lynx in to land it marks his last operational flight after 38 years in the Royal Navy, clocking up 6500 flying hours.

              Lieutenant Commander (Lt Cdr) Harper will now bid fond farewell to The Royal Navy. He said “It’s been a fantastic way to bring to a close my 38 year career.

              'Aircraft art' from HMS Daring's 200 Flight

              "We were exercising in the South China Sea when she was re-tasked to the Philippines. Once we received our tasking the plan was immediately drawn together and the aircraft prepared for what was going to be an extremely busy period.

              "It was a devastating situation but a thoroughly rewarding experience for the whole ship’s company.”

              Since in May last year Daring has visited 21 different ports, crossed the Atlantic Ocean, supported anti-piracy operations in the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Aden and tracked ballistic targets during trials in the Pacific Ocean.

              When Daring headed west it was to a place no Type 45 had been before – the Panama Canal.

              Daring saw successful science and technology trials in the Pacific Ocean with the US Navy, and made for Australasia to exercise with an international fleet of 18 warships from 12 nations.

              She joined ships from around the world in Sydney Harbour to celebrate the Royal Australian Navy’s 100th birthday, one of around 40 warships from 17 countries, gathered for a spectacular International Fleet Review and the Lynx was involved in the 27 helicopter flypast.

              Lieutenant Commander Joe Harper from HMS Daring is welcomed back at RNAS Yeovilton by senior staff

              The Flight Pilot Hamish Walker said “The airborne view of Sydney Harbour and the iconic bridge was truly fantastic but being surrounded by other aircraft and trying to remain in formation didn’t allow me to fully appreciate it.”

              After her relief efforts in the Philippines Daring continued east for more joint exercises with the Japanese Navy and in the East China Sea with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (Navy).

              HMS Westminster during her maritime security patrols boarded or visited 348 traditional sailing vessels, promoting security and reassuring the maritime community.

              Lieutenant James Benbow is reunited with his family upon arrival

              Now home, both Lynx teams are looking forward to catching up with family and friends, having a well deserved break.

              After 38 years in the Royal Navy accumulating 6500 flying hours, no one has earned it more than Lt Cdr Joe Harper!


              • #8
                New UK Naval Helo To Wait at Least 5 Years for Planned Missiles

                Two missiles planned to equip a fleet of new Royal Navy helicopters due to become operational next year won’t enter service until the next decade, Britain’s Ministry of Defence has admitted.

                The British had originally planned to have MBDA’s future air-to-surface guided weapon (heavy), known as FASGW (H), ready when the new AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat maritime attack helicopter entered service in 2015.

                That was to be followed by the installation of a Thales UK-developed lightweight modular missile to meet the FASGW (Light) requirement.

                The new UK Navy Wildcat helicopters will have to wait before receiving planned missiles

                But the MoD admitted last week that while contract developments can be expected soon, the in-service date for both missiles will be much later than planned.

                “FASGW contracts will be awarded as soon as is reasonably practicable in order to support a planned in-service date of late 2020,” a spokeswomen for the MoD said Feb 28.

                Until now, details of the FASGW (H) in-service date have not been revealed ahead of the completion of commercial negotiations between MBDA and its two customers.

                The British are reckoned to be close to announcing as many as three contracts with industry for development of the heavy and light missile types as well as a deal with AgustaWestland’s UK operation to integrate the weapons onto the Wildcat.

                MBDA’s FASGW (H) development has been stalled for several years after the French government dragged its feet over committing to a joint program to build the missile because of pressure on the defense budget. Also, Paris didn’t have a requirement for the weapon until at least the early 2020s.

                Delays in French approval threatened to cause a serious rift in the Anglo-French Defence Treaty before Paris signaled last year it would go ahead with the program.

                The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to take forward the program, known as the Anti-Navire Leger in France, at the January Anglo-French summit involving UK Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande held at Brize Norton air base in the UK.

                The French 2014-19 multiyear budget law published last year only sets out joint development and certification with the UK on the missile in the six years covered, and sets a delivery of weapons for its military in the next budget law.

                A decision on which French helicopter will be armed with the new missile will depend on talks between the Navy and the procurement officials, with cost one of the factors, said officials in Paris.

                When fitted, the new missiles will give the Wildcat the ability to strike naval targets ranging in size from a corvette down to fast moving small attack craft, as well as land targets.

                FASGW (H) is a 100-kilogram class weapon replacing Sea Skua and the AS15TT; FASGW (L) is a 13-kilogram class missile already ordered by the British MoD.

                Weapons currently fitted to the new helicopter to be deployed on Royal Navy warships include torpedoes and machine guns.

                A National Audit Office (NAO) report into major MoD projects released in early 2013 listed the MBDA weapon as ready for service in January 2018, a date already revised from earlier plans.

                Working on the 2018 date, the report by the government spending watchdog said there would be at least a 19-month gap between the existing capability leaving service and the new missile becoming available.

                Delays to the missile development have raised speculation the British might be looking at using the aging Sea Skua missile, which FASGW (H) is meant to replace, to help close the capability gap caused by the misalignment of the new weapon and new airframe.

                The Sea Skua missile is carried by Royal Navy Lynx Mk8 helicopters. The Mk8s were meant to have gone out of service in 2015, but that exit date for the final airframes was amended to 2018.

                In line with that, the MoD awarded MBDA a £41 million (US $68.4 million) deal a few weeks ago to continue supporting the Sea Skua in service for 27 months with an option to extend by a further 12 months if required.

                The MoD won’t say what, if any, plans it has to further close the gap between Sea Skua and FASGW (H).

                “Plans for the future of Sea Skua are ongoing, and it would be inappropriate to speculate further at this time,” said the MoD spokeswomen.

                The NAO said in the 2013 Major Projects Report that the heavy and light versions of FASGW were fundamental to the Wildcat’s role.

                “Failure to provide a FASGW capability synchronous with Initial Operating Capability will mean significant elements of attack capability will not be available in several mission scenarios.

                “These core attack missions are dependent upon the ability to deliver a proportional and autonomous attack capability for which FASGW Light and Heavy variants are fundamental,” said the report.

                Deliveries of the Wildcat for the Royal Navy started last year and all 28 are scheduled to have been handed over by 2016, when the new-generation machines based on the Lynx are planned to enter service.

                A further 34 Wildcats are being delivered to the British Army. These AW159s will not be equipped with FASGW weapons.

                Wildcat deliveries for the UK started in 2012 and over a third of the 62 aircraft ordered have been handed over by AgustaWestland’s Yeovil, southwest England-based operation.

                The helicopter company also expects next year to start delivering the first of eight AW159s destined for export customer South Korea.

                The South Korean Navy has selected the Spike non-line-of-sight missile from Israeli manufacturer Rafael for its main missile armament.


                • #9
                  Merlin MkII Sea Trials

                  The Merlin Mk 2 is the Navy’s new-and-improved version of the world’s leading anti-submarine helicopter, conducting its initial trials with the Royal Navy’s first line of defence against the threat from underwater foes: the Type 23 frigate.

                  Merlin Mk 2 approaching HMS Lancaster​'s helideck

                  The Merlin has been in service with the Royal Navy for more than a decade, but is in the middle of a £750m revamp which will see the fleet of helicopters, all based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall, ready to take the fight to submarines until the end of the 2020s.

                  Although it looks almost identical outwardly, inside the Mk 2 Merlin is an entirely different beast, fitted with a state-of-the-art touch screen, integrated command system for both flying and fighting.

                  Merlin Mk 2 setting down on the deck of HMS Lancaster​

                  In its normal configuration, the rear of the helicopter is a mini operations room that uses numerous sensors to detect and identify both submarines and ships on the surface. Those hi-tech consoles can also be quickly removed by Merlin engineers to convert it into a troop carrier or flying ambulance.

                  For now, Lancaster is focusing on the basics of working with the new helicopter in the Channel.

                  Safely down

                  So once the helicopter from 829 Naval Air Squadron – which supplies Type 23 frigates with Merlin’s, aircrew and engineers for operations around the world – was embarked, numerous exercises began.

                  Crash on deck exercises were practised that run out the ship’s emergency response organisation, while the Merlin conducted numerous sorties and secondary duties, such as winching a casualty from the frigate’s forecastle.

                  With helideck crew

                  “I am very proud to be the first to operate a Merlin Mk 2 from a Type 23 Frigate,” said Lt Cdr Simon ‘Stevo’ Stevenson, 01 Flight Commander.

                  “It is an exciting time and I am looking forward to working together with HMS Lancaster, testing its capabilities to the max.

                  "This short embarkation represents another major step forward of the integration of a vastly capable and complex aircraft into the Royal Navy, ensuring we remain at the forefront of anti-surface and sub-surface warfare.”

                  For the Commanding Officer of the Portsmouth-based warship – which was instrumental in trials helping the original Merlin into service nearly 15 years ago – the arrival of the ‘souped-up’ helicopter is a real bonus to Frigate operations.

                  “The new Merlin is a huge step forward in capability for the Royal Navy and Lancaster is very privileged to be part of these trials,” said Commander Peter Laughton.

                  “In the weeks to come we will be working very closely with Merlin Mk 2 and her crew to ensure its successful introduction into front-line service.”

                  Two of the Royal Navy’s four Merlin squadrons have now converted to the upgraded helicopter, which has deployed overseas for the first time (an anti-submarine exercise off Norway).

                  The biggest test yet for the new Merlin will be a huge submarine hunt led by HMS Illustrious in June, when eight Mk 2’s are lined up to join the veteran carrier for Exercise Deep Blue in the Atlantic.


                  • #10
                    Wildcat Sea Trials

                    The Royal Navy’s Wildcat helicopter has landed on the flight deck of a Type 45 destroyer, HMS Dragon, at sea as part of sea trials with 700W Naval Air Squadron.

                    The Wildcat is the maritime attack variant of the Lynx helicopter. It will begin to replace the Lynx Mk 8 as the Royal Navy’s destroyer and frigate support helicopter from 2015.

                    Wildcat at sea

                    Capt Iain Lower, the Type 45’s commanding officer, said: ‘Today is a small, but exciting, step in the progression of this new capability and I am delighted that HMS Dragon was able to help. I look forward to seeing what the aircraft can do when we put it through its paces later this month.’

                    The Wildcat helicopter will embark on HMS Dragon later this month as part of Exercise Joint Warrior off the Scottish coast.

                    Operational sea training with a Type 23 frigate will also commence in the autumn of 2014.

                    Wildcat during sea trials

                    Lt Cdr Simon Collins, commanding officer of 700W Naval Air Squadron, said: ‘This year will be one of many firsts for the Wildcat crews as we work with our industry partners to get the aircraft to sea as soon as we can. Deck landings on board a Type 45 at sea are a real milestone and it was a pleasure to join the HMS Dragon team to show them what Wildcat can do.’


                    • #11
                      Royal Navy Signs £500m Weapons Deal with France

                      The Ministry of Defence has announced it will equip new helicopters with state-of-the-art missiles after a landmark deal was signed.

                      The agreement will see the MoD contribute £280m towards a £500m UK and French government project to arm the Royal Navy's new Wildcat helicopters.

                      It is the first time the goverments have signed off a project since last month's Anglo-French summit held at RAF Brize Norton.

                      Weighing around 100kg, the missile can destroy small and medium-sized vessels from far away and also has the capability to launch attacks against coastal and ground targets.

                      The investment will also sustain around 200 highly-skilled UK jobs and work will take place at arms manufacturer's MBDA sites, in Lostock near Manchester, Bristol and Stevenage. The contract will also protect a further 200 jobs in France.

                      Paris had reportedly dragged its feet over the plan due to budget pressures and because its military had no requirement for the weapon until at least the early 2020s.

                      The delay means the new AgustaWestland-built Wildcat helicopter due to enter service with the Royal Navy next year will be without either of its two main missile armaments.

                      Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Philip Dunne, said: "This highly sophisticated complex weapon system will provide our new Royal Navy Wildcat helicopters with unparalleled strike capabilities."

                      A video pulished by the MoD demonstrates the lethal accuracy of the weapon, which will also have new capabilities such as in-flight retargeting.


                      • #12
                        702 & 815 Complete Live Firing of Sea Skuas

                        Live firing trials of the Sea Skua missile system were held at MOD Aberporth, West Wales, 11 March 2014.

                        Lynx helicopters from 702 and 815 Naval Air Squadrons took part in operation "Aftershock", a live firing trial of the Sea Skua missile system.

                        The trials were held at MOD Aberporth, West Wales, where single firing serials and dual firing was conducted in the barnacle formation.

                        The trial ran for a period of two weeks with firing crews being changing between firings. The single firing serials were at a towed craft which was constantly moving within the firing range.

                        The formation firings were at a large static target moored within the firing range.


                        • #13
                          New CO for 771 NAS

                          At a ceremony at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, Commander Martin Shepherd has handed over the reigns of 771 Search and Rescue Naval Air Squadron to Lieutenant Commander Scott Armstrong.

                          Cdr Shepherd took command of 771 NAS on 29 March 2012 and has completed 150 Search and Rescue (SAR) missions. Martin’s first SAR job was back in December 2009 when as Senior Pilot he and his crew assisted the Spanish Trawler Trevessa, on fire 50 miles South West of the Isle of Scilly. The rescue earned Petty Officer Aircrewman “Cags” Lacy the Queens Gallantry Medal (QGM) and the crew the prestigious Edward and Maisie Lewis Award for gallantry. Prior to the hand-over ceremony, and thankfully in not the same weather conditions, three members of that original crew re-united to fly once again to the Trevessa; CDR Shepherd, Lt Cdr Steve Hopkins and Lt Cdr Alex Stevenson, marking a fitting conclusion to a very successful time in command of the Royal Navy’s SAR Squadron.

                          Commander Martin Shepherd (left) hands over the 'Key the to Squadron' to Lt Cdr Scott Armstrong

                          Lt Cdr Scott Armstrong brings with him a wealth of experience since embarking on a Flying career as a Royal Naval aviator in 1991, as an Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) Pilot with 814 NAS from Culdrose and onboard HMS Invincible.

                          Much of Scott’s experience has been gathered with the Green Commando “Junglie” Sea Kings at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset, during which he completed several tours as a Flight Commander in Bosnia, the Balkans, Norway and the Mediterranean with 845 NAS. Following this he was selected for a Flying Instructor course and became a Qualified Helicopter Instructors Course (QHI) and served on 848 NAS the “Junglie” Training Squadron.

                          Scott diversified further and took up a rare opportunity for Fleet Air Arm pilots when he joined RAF Odiham in Hampshire to fly the Chinook Mk 2. This gave him a challenging tour that saw him serving in several operational areas.

                          After several desk jobs based at RNAS Yeovilton and Navy Command Headquarters in Portsmouth, including being the Career Manager for pilots and air traffic controllers he has finally returned to the cockpit of a Sea King as he the Commanding Officer of 771 NAS. Despite a career based predominately at RNAS Yeovilton, Scott is no stranger to the South West and the delights of Cornwall, his first ever Flying tour was with 814 NAS which lasted three years.

                          Lt Cdr Scott Armstrong, the new CO of 771 NAS

                          On his new appointment Scott said, “I’m delighted to be back at Culdrose and to take over at 771. I've inherited a fantastic squadron in very good health at an exciting time. 771 plays an important role and is the public face of the RN in the South West, I hope to continue building the community links that the Squadron has developed”.

                          2014 will see another busy year for 771 Sqn as it continues to provide search and rescue cover for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The Squadron was the busiest SAR base in England during 2013 conducting 257 rescues. So far this year there has already been 86 call outs and by the end of April 2014 there had been more than 25% extra rescues than the same time during the previous year.


                          • #14
                            Royal Navy Lynx in Gibraltar 'Buzzing' Incident

                            The UK Foreign Office has admitted a Royal Navy helicopter swooped low over a Spanish 'Guardia Civil' vessel when it entered Gibraltar waters, having initially denied eye witness accounts.

                            Witnesses reported seeing a Royal Navy Lynx helicopter ‘buzz’ the patrol boat Rio Cedena while it was in Gibraltar territorial waters on Friday.

                            At first the MoD said there was no intervention by a helicopter when the boat sailed into Gibraltar waters at 7:30 in the morning, spending nearly half an hour in the Bay, and defying warnings by the Royal Navy.

                            There was a second incursion by the same vessel at around midday, although it was only in Gibraltar waters for a few minutes.

                            Royal Navy Lynx HMA.8 XZ689 in Gibraltar

                            Witnesses again reported having seen the Royal Navy Lynx (which arrived in Gibraltar with HMS Northumberland) swooping low near the Rio Cedena during this second incursion.

                            Initially, the Foreign Office said the helicopter was not involved in any operation regarding unlawful incursions. However, late on Friday night a different line emerged with a spokesperson confirming: “HMS Northumberland and a Royal Navy Lynx helicopter conducted a routine sovereignty patrol of British Gibraltar.”


                            • #15
                              Exercise "Deep Blue" to Commence Monday 2nd June

                              RNAS Culdrose have been busy training and getting everything ready for one of their biggest operations since the Cold War.

                              Next Monday, nine of the latest Merlin helicopters carrying more than 250 personnel will depart from the base near Helston.

                              Their home for four weeks will be the Atlantic Ocean on-broad the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious. They will take part in continuous operations to hunt for French and British submarines shadowing the carrier in an exercise code named Deep Blue.

                              Commander Ben Franklin

                              Commander Ben Franklin, in charge of the Merlin helicopter fleet at Culdrose, said crews were deployed to ships around the world – but this Deep Blue was exceptional for its size and complexity.

                              A former Observer on Sea King helicopters, Commander Franklin, 47, said: "I was doing Cold War ops off carriers in the 1980s. But this new generation haven't done anything on this scale before. I can tell you though, they are ready for it.

                              "When you go to carrier ops, then you are in a whole different league."

                              The group is due to fly out of Culdrose in formation at around midday next Monday.

                              Commander Franklin added: "We'll be undertaking force protection, that's making sure ships and task groups are safe.

                              "That includes surface protection, such as from small boats, for instance we do a lot of anti-piracy work.

                              "Our primary role however is in anti-submarine protection and that is where the Merlin is world class.

                              "It's packed full of equipment that enables us to locate submarines.

                              "Once we locate a submarine then they are in a world of pain. Of course, if they get a firing solution on one of our ships, then we are in a world of pain."

                              The exercise is designed to test the group's ability to keep three helicopters continually in the air looking for submarines 24 hours a day.

                              Taking part are 18 flight crews of four men for each helicopter, flight deck crews, engineers and support staff – a total of more than 250 Culdrose personnel.

                              They will be pushed to work around the clock flying, refuelling and repairing the aircraft – known in Navy jargon as a 'ripple'.

                              "We are the insurance policy that you hope you are never going to cash in," added Commander Franklin.

                              "While it is exciting and it's not going to come without some challenges, this is what we do and what we're paid to do."

                              Heading up the Culdrose carrier air group is Naval Air Squadron 820 with helicopters and personnel from 824 and 829 Squadrons and 814 in support.

                              This will also be one of the last operations for HMS Illustrious which is to be scrapped later this year. Her replacement, the carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, will be ready for active service in two years' time.


                              • #16
                                Video Footage from Exercise "Deep Blue"

                                (See item above for more details)


                                • #17
                                  Royal Navy Helicopter Observer Killed in Training Accident to be Honoured with Flypast and Official Naming of Locomotive

                                  A dedicated Royal Navy helicopter observer and railway enthusiast from Dorset who died in a training accident is to be honoured with a flypast over Swanage station today – during the official naming of a newly mainline overhauled 1960s heritage diesel locomotive in her honour.

                                  One of the Fleet Air Arm's first female Lynx helicopter aircrew, Jenny Lewis from Sherborne was a long-time fan of the classic 1960s-built Class 33 diesel-electric locomotives, of which the 71A Locomotive Group's No. D6515 is an example.

                                  The late Lieutenant Jennifer Lewis, one of the Fleet Air Arm's first female Lynx crew members

                                  With Jenny's proud father Chris and Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm senior officers in attendance, the gleaming 73-ton diesel locomotive – which hauled London trains to Corfe Castle and Swanage in 1966 – will be named 'Lt Jenny Lewis RN' during a poignant ceremony at Swanage station from 1pm today, (Thursday, 12 June).

                                  In Jenny's honour, a flypast by a Lynx helicopter from Yeovilton in Somerset over Swanage station and No. D6515 takes place at 1.30pm – just after proud father Chris Lewis unveils one of the new nameplates 12 years to the day since his 25-year-old daughter died; the first United Kingdom naval servicewoman to lose her life while on operational duty.

                                  Chris said: "I am thrilled about D6515 being named after Jenny and I know that she would be too. Having the locomotive named after my daughter is amazing and Jenny would be so honoured.

                                  "Jenny was a very vivacious girl who worked extremely hard and played hard too. She was very loving and interested in everything – especially mechanical things. If she made up her mind to achieve something, she put her mind to it and did it.

                                  "The Royal Navy never fails to amaze me – it's a huge family and if I had my time again, I would have served with them," he added.

                                  Class 33 No. D6515 was one of a fleet of 98 locomotives delivered to the Southern Region of British Railways in the early 1960s and which is today being named after Jenny Lewis

                                  Today's official naming ceremony is being organised and hosted by Brian Denton, chairman of the 71A Locomotive Group with the address being given by a senior officer with the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm.

                                  Following the official naming, No. D6515 will depart Swanage at 1.40pm with a special train to Harman's Cross, Corfe Castle and Norden Park & Ride carrying Jenny's family, invited Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm guests and 71A Locomotive Group supporters before returning to Swanage for 2.40pm.

                                  Tragically, Jenny was killed in June, 2002, during a training flight in a Lynx when the helicopter developed double engine failure and crashed into the sea during a joint British and American military exercise off the coast of Virginia on the east coast of the United States.

                                  As a tribute to his daughter, Jenny's father Chris Lewis – who lives in Broadstone in Dorset – became a major shareholder in the 71A Locomotive Group to help pay for the major overhaul of No. D6515 to main line standards at Eastleigh Works in Hampshire.

                                  A Lynx helicopter flies over Chris Lewis, (Jenny's father) with Brian Denton, Chairman of the 71A Locomotive Group and Commadore Jock Alexander from RNAS Yeovilton at the naming of diesel locomotive D6515 the "Lt Jenny Lewis" at Swanage Station

                                  During its 35 year working career with British Rail, No. D6515 hauled trains in Kent, across the south and west of England as well as in the London area, south Wales and the midlands on both passenger and freight trains.

                                  Powered by a 1550 horsepower Sulzer diesel engine and built by the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company in 1960, Class 33 No. D6515 was one of a fleet of 98 locomotives delivered to the Southern Region of British Railways in the early 1960s.

                                  After a long and successful career with British Rail, No. D6515 was stored surplus to requirements at Eastleigh during 1995 before being withdrawn in 1997 and purchased by the volunteers of the 71A Locomotive Group.


                                  • #18
                                    Fleet Air Arm to be Equipped with New Lightweight Starburst Missiles

                                    The Ministry of Defence announced today its intention to procure £48 million worth of state-of-the-art missiles which are to be carried by Royal Navy helicopters.

                                    Defence minister Philip Dunne said the new missiles, made in east Belfast by the defence company Thales, "will help win battles."

                                    The Ministry of Defence suggested the the new Lightweight Multi-Role Missile (LMM) named 'Starburst' would be used for Britain's national defence. Mr Dunne said coastlines represented areas of growing concern to armed forces around the world and this new technology would provide Britain with greater protection.

                                    The system will be used to target small ships and fast attack craft and is designed and built by Thales UK's Belfast plant.

                                    The new LMM (lightweight multi-role missile)

                                    Cross section of the Starburst missile


                                    • #19
                                      Wildcat Makes Debut Landing Aboard HMS Illustrious

                                      The Royal Navy's new AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat maritime attack helicopter has made its debut landing aboard the Invincible-class aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious during an anti-submarine exercise, "Exercise Deep Blue" (see post #15 above), off Cornwall in the Atlantic.

                                      HMS Illustrious Air Commander Mike Ryan said: "As someone who was closely involved with bringing Wildcat into service, it was both a great pleasure and privilege to welcome this highly impressive new helicopter on to Illustrious for the very first time."

                                      The AW159 performing a deck landing

                                      Set to replace the aging Westland Super Lynx on the front line from 2015, the latest AW159 Wildcat helicopter maritime attack (HMA) Mk2 Lynx helicopter is based with 700W Naval Air Squadron and can also be deployed from smaller vessels.

                                      Built as part of a contract signed by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) with AgustaWestland in 2006, the navy aviation unit will take delivery of 28 Wildcats to assist in various maritime attack missions, while 34 aircraft will be delivered to the British Army.

                                      Scheduled to be commissioned next year, the naval version of Wildcat would continue training and trials at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset until the end of July, with the army version scheduled to enter service this year.

                                      Recently, Thales was awarded a contract to design and build future anti-surface guided weapon (light) (FASGW(L)) missiles for integration into the Wildcat helicopters, which would offer a versatile, rapidly deployable and highly effective capability to rise above the threat from small ships and inshore attack craft.

                                      In addition to Wildcat, the three-week war game was joined by nine Merlin Mk2 helicopters.


                                      • #20
                                        UK’s Last Armed Forces Covenant Signed in Scilly

                                        Children from the Five Islands School watched as the Navy search and rescue helicopter from RNAS Culdrose landed on their playing field yesterday morning.

                                        It marked the start of two-days of events celebrating the signing of the Armed Forces Community Covenant by the Islands’ Council.

                                        Commander Tom Herman, the Deputy Naval Regional Commander for Wales and the West of England, says today’s ceremony on board HMS Mersey is an important moment for the armed forces.

                                        It’s the last covenant in the whole country to be signed, and he says it’s fitting that it should happen at its most south-westerly outpost.

                                        Commander Tom Herman at the Five Islands School​

                                        The covenants were started by former Prime Minister Tony Blair during the war in Afghanistan. Cmdr Herman says as the casualties were mounting, the government of the time realised the link between the forces and society was getting weaker.

                                        Tom says they’re voluntary and don’t commit the local authority to spending lots of extra money. But they try to focus attention on the special needs of service men and women, their families, reservists and veterans.

                                        Because service families move around often, they sometimes struggle with things such as medical waiting lists, housing or finding places in schools.

                                        In return, authorities that sign up to the covenant can access grants of up to quarter of a million pounds to help fund projects to support the armed forces in their areas.

                                        Tom says over £1m was handed out in the south west last year.

                                        Yesterday, all school children got a tour of the RNAS Culdrose helicopter, while Cmdr Herman spoke to the year 9 class about the covenant and careers in the military.

                                        He said it’s a chance to impress the youngsters, who will be the military personnel of the future.

                                        This lunchtime, a delegation of twenty people representing the Council, businesses and veterans’ charities will attend the signing of the covenant on board the patrol vessel HMS Mersey. The Navy’s flagship HMS Bulwark had been due to attend but got called away on operational duties elsewhere last weekend.

                                        At 5.30pm there’ll be a special sunset ceremony for the public at the Star Castle to commission the covenant, with prayers led by Canon Paul Miller and with buglers from 6th Battalion The Rifles.

                                        The signing will also mark a new relationship with our nearest military station, HMS Seahawk at Culdrose, the base for the Navy’s search and rescue helicopters. Representatives from there will now sit on the islands’ covenant panel.

                                        Cmdr Herman says it’s clear to him that we already have an “intimate” relationship with this base. He joked that within the first hour he’d been on the islands yesterday, he spoke to at least ten people who had been in the back of the Culdrose chopper, either unwell or giving birth.


                                        • #21
                                          Did You Serve At Culdrose?

                                          Historians at RNAS Culdrose want to hear your stories of life at the Cornish air station over the past 67 years.

                                          The base’s heritage committee want to flesh out the official story with first-person accounts from those who have served there.

                                          DO YOU have a dit about Cornwall’s premier air station?

                                          If you do – and a good many of our readers probably will have – the RNAS Culdrose Heritage Committee want to hear it.

                                          Sea Kings over St Michael's Mount in 1970​

                                          They're looking to build up a comprehensive anthology of life at the Lizard Peninsula airbase, which has served the Fleet Air Arm since 1947.

                                          The history of the base is fairly well charted through official documents – but it’s the human stories the committee, which meets three times a year, is keen on receiving to bring the past to life.

                                          “It’s the personal experiences of people who’ve worked at or been associated with the base over the years that is the most interesting and needs to be preserved,” said Lt Helen Dobbs, Sea King engineering officer and chairwoman of the heritage committee.

                                          The duty SAR crew of a 771 NAS Wessex Mk5 in 1980​

                                          "Whilst we have a good deal of documentation and historical material in our archives both here and at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton, we'd welcome stories and reminiscences from anyone who’s had a connection with Culdrose and who’d like to share those memories and experiences.”

                                          You can see some of the heritage committee’s work at Culdrose Air Day on Thursday July 1 when several historic airframes and displays will be on show.

                                          Anyone wishing to share their memories should contact Lt H Dobbs, Station Heritage Committee, RNAS Culdrose, Helston, Cornwall, TR12 7RH or email


                                          • #22
                                            Merlin Mk2's Complete Exercise Deep Blue

                                            Nine Royal Navy Merlin Mk2 helicopters have taken part in Exercise Deep Blue in the Atlantic Ocean, simulating their anti-submarine warfare, maritime patrol and casualty evacuation capabilities.

                                            ​9 Merlins were engaged during the exercise

                                            Throughout the Exercise, the Merlin aircraft were embarked on HMS Illustrious. Aircrews and engineers worked round the clock alongside pilots and aircrew operating on a non-stop ‘sleep-eat-fly-sleep’ rotation to support three aircraft aloft at all times with two on ready status.


                                            • #23
                                              Royal Navy Commissions Merlin Mk2's

                                              The Royal Navy has commissioned its next generation of submarine-hunting Merlin Mk2 aircraft, four months ahead of their planned deployment.

                                              Joining the navy's Invincible-class, light-aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, Merlins participated in Exercise Deep Blue, demonstrating anti-submarine warfare, maritime patrol and casualty evacuation capabilities.

                                              Fleet Air Arm Merlin Mk2's aboard HMS Illustrious

                                              Built as part of an £800m programme to upgrade the navy's existing aircraft fleet, Merlins feature latest cockpits that provide improved night-vision capability for pilots and a modernised combat system with touch screen display.

                                              UK Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Minister Philip Dunne said: "The updated Merlin is one of the most technologically advanced and effective anti-submarine helicopters, and their entry into service is a real boost for the Royal Navy.

                                              "Delivering the Merlin Mk2 into service four months ahead of schedule and to budget is a real achievement and shows how MoD is working well with industry to deliver world-class equipment to our armed forces."

                                              The UK Navy is planning to deploy Merlin Mk2 helicopters on-board the new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, in addition to operating from frigates, destroyers and Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ships globally.

                                              In addition, the navy has yet to receive 15 aircraft at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall over the following 18 months.


                                              • #24
                                                HMS Ocean to Receive First Helicopters After Refit

                                                A DEVONPORT-based helicopter carrier which has undergone a multi-million pound refit is one step closer to being fully operational.

                                                The Royal Navy’s HMS Ocean will be conducting flying exercises this week to test its aviation facilities and ensure everything is ship-shape and in full working order.

                                                HMS Ocean

                                                HMS Ocean will undergo sea trials off the South West coast to ensure she can operate safely at sea having left Devonport Naval Base ten days ago after two years away from frontline duty.

                                                Naval Airman Tom Scott, one of HMS Oceans aircraft handlers, said: “It is fantastic that we are finally at sea, and I am really looking forward to getting stuck in when the first helicopters arrive for air exercises.

                                                “It has been a long journey to get here – but I know that when that first helicopter lands, we will all get excited about why we joined the Royal Navy to be a part of the elite aviation institution, the Fleet Air Arm, all over again.”

                                                HMS Ocean’s main capability allows her to launch an airborne assault of Royal Marine Commandos ashore using medium and heavy-lift helicopters. The ship has six helicopter operating spots on the deck, with hangar space for a further twelve large helicopters below.

                                                During the assault phase of an amphibious operation HMS Ocean is able to launch two waves of troop-carrying Sea King helicopters, as well as operating the smaller armed reconnaissance Lynx helicopter or the Apache attack helicopter.

                                                The regeneration of HMS Ocean’s flying capability gives the flying teams their first opportunity to see a helicopter land on her deck in over two years and is an exciting time for the 70 members of the air department.


                                                • #25
                                                  Wasp Down at HMS Sultan (But only a an engineering instruction airframe!)

                                                  A classic Fleet Air Arm Westland Wasp helicopter has been knocked off a low-loader as it was being transported out of HMS Sultan in Gosport. The helicopter was knocked to the ground when when the driver hit the corner of a fence at the Royal Navy base in Gosport.

                                                  The injured Wasp being lifted back onto the low-loader

                                                  Lee-on-the-Solent resident Richard Harvey said he saw the accident from his car and said: "I was directly opposite at the traffic lights when it happened. ‘It just went smash. It hit it pretty hard. The helicopter had been pulled off its moorings by the looks of it."

                                                  A spokesman from HMS Sultan said the helicopter suffered damage to one of its wheels, that no one was injured and that the accident had not affected activities at HMS Sultan.

                                                  The Wasp helicopter had been used by trainee engineers at HMS Sultan.


                                                  • #26
                                                    Baggers Back to Sea

                                                    RNAS Culdrose Sea Kings from the Royal Navy’s Airborne Surveillance Force are gaining their sea legs again after operating for the past two years over the deserts of Afghanistan.

                                                    857 Naval Air Squadron, who fly Sea King Mk 7 Airborne Surveillance and Control helicopters, are affectionately known as “Baggers” because of the radar being held in a large Kevlar bag on the side of the aircraft. During their extended period on Operation Herrick duty in Afghanistan they completed in excess of 3,000 flying hours spread over 800 missions from Camp Bastion, the main operating Base for British Forces in the country. Swapping their Multi-Terrain Combats, they are getting familiar once again with traditional Naval Blue, and a return to Maritime operations.

                                                    Sea King Mk7's from 857 NAS

                                                    “It's a fantastic opportunity to be back at sea as part of our maritime training period. RFA Argus offers us exactly the right platform in her role as the Fleet‘s Aviation Training Ship, said Lieutenant Commander James Hall, Commanding Officer of 857 NAS. “Up to 70% of my people have not been at sea recently, for some the last time was during Operation Ellamy off the coast of Libya in 2011. However, team spirit, enthusiasm and professionalism have been fundamental to regaining the specialist skills required to safely and effectively integrate with the ship’s company. By the end of this embarkation we expect to have increased our preparations for any task we could face in the maritime environment”.

                                                    The “Baggers” are embarked for two weeks and in that time they will be showing many of the newbie’s what life at sea is all about. Lieutenant Shaun Parker is the squadrons Air Engineering Officer (AEO) and he knows it’s a gradual training process to get fully up to speed. “Getting everyone to think about flight deck safety and operating on a pitching and rolling deck in all weathers is crucial. Some of the squadron are experiencing this for the first time. You don’t really need to lash things down in the desert, but you do when you’re at sea in the English Channel”.

                                                    The onboard training includes many aspects the squadron needs to operate in the Maritime environment. Pilots are getting deck current again and Observers carrying out basic radar handling of the aircraft to intercept ships and aircraft in the South West Approaches off the coast ofCornwall. Adopting a “Crawl – Walk – Run” training philosophy, the squadron’s engineers are beginning once again to get to-grips with ship borne procedures. Starting with the basics and working together as a team on the flight deck and down below in Argus’s large hangar.

                                                    “I’ve been on the squadron for about 18 months now, and completed three Afghan tours on Herrick, this is my first time onboard,” said Air Engineering Technician (AET) Martin Hetherington, one of the younger members of the squadron. “Everything takes longer and there’s a lot to learn, I’m really enjoying working the flight deck in all weathers, you have to be switched on and know what’s going on around you.”

                                                    857 NAS return to Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose after their short deployment onboard RFA Argus and begin planning for future operations and exercises with the Fleet later on in the year. This will also offer a period of rest and recuperation for both Squadron personnel and their families and their important supporting role behind the scenes.

                                                    Additional photos:

                                                    Deck Landing on the RFA Argus​

                                                    857 NAS Engineers fold the Sea King on the deck of the RFA Argus​

                                                    Sea King Mk 7 into the hangar RFA Argus

                                                    857 NAS engineering briefing aboard the RFA Argus

                                                    The RFA Argus


                                                    • #27
                                                      New CO for 824

                                                      On 16 July Commander Steve Thomas took over command of 824 Naval Air Squadron from his predecessor Commander Nick Gibbons, who moves on to an appointment at Joint Headquarters in Northwood, London.

                                                      Commander Thomas joins 824 NAS as development of Merlin Mk 2 continues and the important role of the Merlin Training Facility are crucial to feeding the three front line Merlin units with pilots, observers, aircrewmen and engineers based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose.

                                                      Commander Steve Thomas (right) taking over the reigns of 824 NAS from Commander Nick Gibbons

                                                      “It’s tremendously exciting, I can’t wait. It’s every boy’s dream to be in charge of their own Naval Air Squadron and I’m no different,” said Steve. “It’s fantastic to be back at Culdrose and really great to be taking over 824 Naval Air Squadron today”.

                                                      Steve Thomas joined the Royal Navy as a direct entry aviator in 1991. Completing flying training he joined 814 NAS in 1996 where he served as a Sea King Anti Submarine Warfare Pilot. He has since flown Merlin and Squirrel helicopters in a wide variety of roles as a Qualified Helicopter Instructor. He has served aboard Aircraft Carriers, Royal Fleet Auxiliaries and ashore across the globe fromScotlandto the Middle East, the Indian Ocean and thePersian Gulf. As an Officer of the Naval Flying Standards Flight between 2006 and 2008, he contributed to the oversight and assessment of aviation standards and practices across the Fleet Air Arm and the widerUKservice environment.

                                                      Between 2009 and 2010 he completed a tour within Navy Command HQ as a staff officer with oversight of the Royal Navy Flying Training pipeline. Prior to attending Advanced Command and Staff Course, from September 2012 to July 2013, he was the Senior Pilot of 820 NAS. Briefly, before taking Command of 824 NAS he spent 6 months in HQ British Forces Gibraltar as Staff Officer Ops Support and held the honorary position of Commanding Officer Royal Navy.

                                                      Speaking about his New Command with 824 NAS and the role his aircraft play, Steve said:

                                                      “Merlin Mk 2 represents a really great leap forward in capability for the aircraft; it’s an exciting time across the Fleet Air Arm not just at Culdrose. New aircraft coming online, new Ships coming online there couldn’t be a better time to take over a squadron”.


                                                      • #28
                                                        RN Sea Training Praised by Secretary of Defence

                                                        The Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has praised the Royal Navy’s professionalism after witnessing the advanced sea training which prepares British, allied and partner warships for operations.

                                                        Mr Fallon flew on 24th July to the Royal Navy’s newest Type 45 destroyer, HMS Duncan, in the English Channel near Plymouth, from where he observed the rigorous training ships’ companies go through.

                                                        The intense training simulates flood and fire emergencies, as well as air attacks from fast jets and submarine and missile engagements. It also tests each crew’s ability to deal with the pressure surrounding a series of potential setbacks.

                                                        Defence Secretary Michael Fallon experiences 'Action Messing' on board HMS Duncan (Photo: Leading Airman Ben Shread)

                                                        Escorted by Rear Admiral Ben Key, Flag Officer Sea Training, Mr Fallon also witnessed ‘action messing’, the emergency distribution of meals in the ship’s mess, which was used to feed hundreds of British citizens for real during the evacuations from Libya in 2011.

                                                        Michael Fallon said: "It is has been deeply impressive to witness the professional and intense training that takes place here to prepare the Royal Navy for operations around the world. It has been a pleasure to see the Type 45 destroyer class in action, which along with the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers shows we have world-leading maritime capability."

                                                        His visit coincided with a milestone for Royal Navy operations. In Camp Bastion, Sea King helicopter crew members from 854 Naval Air Squadron witnessed the lowering of a White Ensign, marking the final contribution of the last fully-formed Royal Naval unit on operations in Afghanistan.

                                                        The Defence Secretary said: "I am pleased to be able to pay tribute to the contribution made by 854 Naval Air Squadron, which has played an essential role in supporting troops on the ground in Afghanistan."

                                                        Joint Movements Unit (JMU) personnel work slowly and carefully to load a Sea King helicopter onto an RAF C17 aircraft to be sent back to the UK. With the end of Operation Herrick approaching the Sea King is no longer required in Afghanistan (Photo: Corporal Daniel Wiepen RLC)

                                                        The squadron, along with 857 Naval Air Squadron, and supported by 849 Naval Air Squadron in the UK, played a vital role flying Sea King airborne surveillance and control (SKASaC) aircraft for more than 9,000 hours over 2,000 sorties to support troops on the ground as part of 903 Expeditionary Air Wing.

                                                        The Royal Navy’s First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas, said: "The contribution of the SKASaC force over 5 years has been magnificent, taking the fight to a determined enemy in a vastly unfamiliar environment. Their vital work saved many lives and proved the value of the aircraft over land."

                                                        As well as the Fleet Air Arm, thousands of members of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines have previously served in Afghanistan in support of Operation Herrick.

                                                        During Herrick 5 in 2006 and 2007 and Herrick 9 in 2008 and 2009, 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines headquarters, 42 Commando and 45 Commando were deployed. At those times Royal Navy personnel and Royal Marines made up around 40% of UK troops.

                                                        Individuals from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines will continue to serve in Afghanistan until the conclusion of combat operations by the end of the year.


                                                        • #29
                                                          700 Naval Air Squadron Decommissioned and Becomes 825 NAS

                                                          On 30th July 700 (W) Naval Air Squadron (NAS) was decommissioned following 5 years of hard work, diligence and dedication at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton.

                                                          Last week saw all seven Royal Naval Wildcat helicopters from 700(W) NAS into the sky simultaneously for the first time and today the decommissioning marks a significant change in the Lynx Wildcat Maritime Force (LWMF).

                                                          Formation of six Wildcat HMA.2 aircaft of 700(W) NAS, taken from the seventh aircraft, to mark the disbanding of the unit and re-commissioning of 825 NAS

                                                          700W's decommissioning is in preparation for their assimilation into 825 NAS with the mission of training both aircrew and engineers as well as standing-up the first deployable Wildcat flights as the Lynx Mk 8 begins its drawdown over the next few years.

                                                          Commander (Cdr) Simon Collins has been the Commanding Officer of 700W during their last year and departs from the squadron as it decommissions today 2014.

                                                          Wildcat HMA.2's of 700W NAS

                                                          Cdr Collins said; “Today’s Decommissioning of 700(W) NAS marks the culmination of just over 5 years hard work and dedication; having started out as only 4 people strong we now find ourselves with a complement of over 100 people and with 7 aircraft on the Sqn.

                                                          "Taking Wildcat from an idea to one that has embarked in RN Warships 3 times for various trials, taken part in a huge multinational exercise and is now ready to send its first flight to sea for Operational Sea Training is a great achievement and one that we should all be proud of.”

                                                          The entire squadron was on parade for a formal decommissioning​

                                                          Cdr Collins added “The previous two Commanding Officers, Lt Cdr Rob Dowdell and Lt Cdr Rob Taylor, also take equal credit for this. As we look to the future and the Squadron becoming 825 NAS on 1 August 2014 I am sure that Wildcat will continue to deliver and will be an asset to the Royal Navy and Defence.”

                                                          There will be a ' transition' from Lynx to Wildcat until 2017 with all Force elements establishing at one location at RNAS Yeovilton in 2016. The Wildcat HMA Mk 2 will offer a lightweight, versatile helicopter capable of operating in all weathers delivering exceptional military capability in support of maritime, littoral and land manoeuvre, force protection and maritime strike.

                                                          700W decommissioning ceremony

                                                          Cdr Simon Collins ended his speech in front of 700(W) personnel with “Sadly today is the end of 700 (W). All the hard work and past success achieved will now shape the future for Wildcat. Thank you for the honour of Commanding you.”

                                                          700(W) NAS became 825 NAS on 1st August.


                                                          • #30
                                                            New CO for Maritime Sea King Force at RNAS Culdrose

                                                            On 07 July 2014 Commander Victoria Dale-Smith assumed command of the Maritime Sea King Force based at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose.

                                                            Cdr Dale-Smith takes command of the Sea King Force at a crucial time that sees within the next two years, a drawdown of the much respected aircraft from its traditional Search and Rescue role at the West Cornwall Base and Prestwick in Scotland.

                                                            Cdr Andrew Rose hands over the reigns of the Maritime Sea King Force to Cdr Victoria Dale Smith​

                                                            Victoria joined the Royal Navy in September 1992 as a Warfare Officer. On completion of Officer of the Watch course in 1994 her first assignment was to HMS Inverness as Gunnery Officer followed by HMS Manchester as the Communications Officer. In 1998 she sub-specialised as a pilot and qualified on the Sea King Commando Helicopter, passing out as a “Junglie” and serving on 845 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Yeovilton. During her time on the Commando Helicopter Force squadron she took part in a variety of amphibious exercises including embarkations in HNLMS Rotterdam and HMS Illustrious as well as a detachment to Exercise Clockwork in Northern of Norway, 170 miles inside the Arctic Circle.

                                                            In 2003 she sailed with HMS Ocean as part of Operation Telic and flew with the Initial Assault Wave of40 Commando Royal Marines, (40 Cdo RM) and the United States Marine Corps, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, (15 MEU), onto the Al Faw Peninsula. During a second tour as the Operations Officer, Victoria returning for subsequent operational tours to Iraq and the Former Yugoslavia, before embarking in HMS Invincible in support of the UK Amphibious Task Group Staff for Exercise Joint Warrior. After promotion to Lieutenant Commander, she joined the staff of Equipment Capability (Air Littoral Manoeuvre) in the MOD as a Desk Officer followed by assignments to the Admiralty Interview Board and Captain Naval Recruiting. On completion of a busy assignment at Naval Command Headquarters in Air Manoeuvre of the Littoral Manoeuvre Capability Integration Group, (LMCIG) she joined RNAS Culdrose as Senior Pilot of 849 NAS flying the Airborne Surveillance and Control (ASaC) Mk 7 variant of the Sea King.

                                                            Cdr Victoria Dale Smith, RNAS Culdrose Sea King Force Commander​

                                                            “It is with enormous pride that I assume Command of the Maritime Sea King Force, especially at such a critical point in the history of the Force”, said Victoria. “I am blessed to have a wealth of talented personnel with diverse operational experience who contribute so much to the success of our daily operations, both in UK Maritime Search and Rescue and operationally in the Gulf.”

                                                            On promotion to Commander, she took up her current assignment as Maritime Sea King Force Commander based at RNAS Culdrose and is responsible for Royal Navy SAR, Sea King Airborne Surveillance and Control and the Sea King Simulator. Victoria enjoys all outdoor activities especially coastal path running and keeps very busy with her two children, Clara and Anna.

                                                            On taking up her appointment CDR Victoria Dale-Smith added: “I have served for 22 years and time has literally flown by. Despite challenges to the Armed Forces over this period, as well as a significant reduction in Royal Naval personnel and equipment, I have still been afforded great career opportunities and huge diversity of employment by the Royal Navy.”