DUTCH HELICOPTERS FEEL AT HOME WITH CULDROSE HOSPITALITY
Twice a year the skies around Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose have become a second home to a detachment of Royal Netherlands Navy aircraft that arrive to carry out continuation training in the South West of England.
The three NH 90 Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW) helicopters are from of 7 (NL) and 860 (NL) Sqns that are based at Naval Air Station De Kooy in the Netherlands, and spend three weeks at Culdrose in the summer and winter months.
“Coming back to Cornwall and Culdrose feels almost like a second home,” said Lieutenant Commander Michel De Koning, one of the more senior pilots with the detachment. “Many have been over here for their four or five times; this will be my twelfth detachment to Culdrose!”
The NH90s come for a variety of reasons but the main one is to operate with Ships and Submarines that work out of Devonport and the Plymouth sea areas as part of the Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) structure.
“We are here to do multiple things, first of all we are doing some training with our ASW crews and general training for our Observers, but we are also testing some new equipment and new operations. At the end of the three weeks we are also looking at using Sonobouys and working with one of our own Ship in the Channel.”
The opportunities that the Dutch have at Culdrose are tremendous and working with surface and sub-surface assets in the English Channel is invaluable to their aircrew and maintainers who keep the aircraft serviceable and flying. In all the detachment is made up of up to 20 flight crew and 40 engineers. They are hosted by one of Culdrose’s Frontline Merlin Units, 820 Naval Air Squadron, who give over some of their office space and Hangar to the visitors.
“820’s hospitality and comradeship as well as the support we get from everyone at RNAS Culdrose is marvellous. We are now very familiar with Helston, Falmouth, Truro and Newquay; this really is a very nice part of the country to be based.”