736 NAS recommissioned
It will soon be almost a year since the re-commissioning of the Fleet Air Arms newest, and currently only, Fast-Jet Naval Air Squadron – 736 NAS. The task of publicising this noteworthy news has inevitably taken a back-seat as the Squadron has worked tirelessly over the last year to transform itself from its former incarnations, but apologies nevertheless to the wider FAA community for having taken so long.
The Squadron was re-commissioned on June 6th 2013, at RNAS Culdrose with CO Culdrose, Captain Mark Garratt in attendance. This was the culmination of a turbulent couple of years for what was left of RN Fast-Jet aviation in the UK. 736 NAS was formed from an amalgamation of the Yeovilton Hawkdet (formerly Naval Flying Standards Flight (FW)) and the civilian contracted unit at Culdrose, FRADU. Incidentally, NFSF(FW) still exists, but only now as the personnel that man it. The main reason for forming a NAS has been to bring all RN Hawk flying under a unified military command structure, considering the majority of tasking undertaken by RN Hawks is directly in support of other RN / RM units. Furthermore, it gives RN Fast-Jet aviation a home at last, as it has somewhat been left out in the cold since the demise of the Harrier during the SDSR in 2010. As the FAA’s FW cadre look towards the bright future of F35 on the horizon, it is essential that Fast-Jet aviation is kept alive in the UK as well as abroad. This is in order to preserve essential UK Command and Supervisory experience, experience of the UK operating environment within the RN, and to help bridge the yawning capability gap.
736 NAS is a Maritime Aggressor Squadron, and commanded by Lt Cdr Tim Flatman (formerly SHAR FA2 and GR7/9). It provides threat simulation to units conducting OST in the South Coast Exercise Areas, practice intercept training to the RN School of Fighter Control at Yeovilton, Close Air Support (CAS) training to 3 Cdo Bde as well as Army units, and Affiliation training to Rotary Wing Squadrons at both Culdrose and Yeovilton. It also has the necessary breadth of expertise to provide Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) and Fighter Affil training as the cadre grows back towards F35. It is manned by RN aircrew in the form of former SHAR and GR7/9 pilots, as well as more junior aircrew for whom this is a first appointment. It is augmented by contracted aircrew; seasoned ex-military pilots provided by SERCO to form the experienced continuity on the Squadron. Engineering is provided by Babcock civilian engineers.
It has been a difficult transformation for the fledgling Squadron, as the usual path is from military unit to contracted, rarely the other way around. This has bought some unique challenges, but is firmly on the way towards its desired end-state. Its first deployment was to Exercise JOINT WARRIOR at RAF Lossiemouth in October 2013, where it supported RN and foreign warships during challenging operationally-focussed scenarios.
The Squadron has survived 3 visits from the ‘trappers’ (NFSF(FW)) in the last year! It now looks forward to broadening its horizons, as well as taking full advantage of being the Home of Maritime Fast-Jet Aviation within the Fleet Air Arm.
Aquila Suos Educit.
The Eagle trains its young.