Coachlines - May 2020

16.05.20 Captain Tom Arkell RM

An update from Commando Helicopter Force

Captain Tom Arkell RM of 847 Naval Air Squadron, part of the Commando Helicopter Force based at RNAS Yeovilton, writes to tell us about a momentous day in the Squadron’s current activities:

Deck landing practise for a Royal Navy Wildcat and a RAF Chinook on the fight deck of HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH

Commando Wildcat Light Utility Helicopters from 847 Naval Air Squadron have marked a major milestone by conducting deck landing training on the Royal Navy’s largest ship, the HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH aircraft carrier, for the first time. It is also the first Commando Helicopter Force Squadron to operate on both QE-class ships including HMS PRINCE OF WALES.

Pilots and crewmen of RNAS Yeovilton-based 847 Squadron took off in their Commando Wildcat to conduct vital deck landing currency and continuation training to maintain high readiness for contingency operations. The training package requires 24 individual deck landings by day, night and utilising night vision goggles in order to be qualified. This, in addition to a number of synthetic sorties conducted at the state-of-the-art simulators in Yeovilton, prepares them for the challenges of operating in the embarked environment.

Qualified Helicopter Instructor, Lt Cdr Westley RN, remarked: “It was hugely rewarding to be part of the first Commando Wildcat crew to conduct NVG deck landings on this class of ship.” As the wings of the Royal Marines, the Wildcats of the Commando Helicopter Force will be at the heart of any maritime task group engaged in littoral operations.

Pictured here is a deck landing practise for Royal Navy Merlin, Royal Navy Wildcat and a RAF Chinook on the fight deck of HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH

Petty Officer Aircrewman Tobin said: “The massive flight deck of the QE gives us lots of space from which to manoeuvre the aircraft. It can get very busy with lots of activity and so proves excellent training. We have made considerable gains in our knowledge and experience of operating at sea and it has been great to see everyone, engineers and aircrew alike, working together to achieve the qualification.”

The squadron continues to train from its home in the South West to maintain R2 readiness status in order to deploy anywhere in the world at short notice.