Lynx across the Atlantic
After months of meticulous preparation and training, 847 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), under the command of Lt Col Nick Venn RM, is now fully deployed to the US Naval Air Facility El Centro in California for the final stages of their pre-deployment training prior to their departure to Afghanistan in January 2013, their third deployment in four years.
The Lynx Mk 9A aircraft, which are owned by the Army (hence the words Army written on the aircraft) have now commenced initial preparation for desert flying operations. After completing the mandatory 48 hour acclimatisation period, Pre Deployment Training (PDT) and Mission Specific Training (MST) both aircrew and engineers have been familiarizing themselves with the extremely inhospitable desert environment.
The Squadron has now fully converted to the Lynx Mk 9A which has new more powerful engines that provide an all year round capability with little degradation in performance due to extreme temperatures. Along with the performance upgrade, the 7.62 mm General Purpose Machine Gun has been replaced with the 0.5 inch M3M Browning, which has a longer range, improved accuracy and multi-role ammunition. This weapon, combined with the MX-10 surveillance camera system, has already provided a significantly enhanced capability to provide support to other UK helicopters and troops operating in the province.
Lt Col Venn added, “The training in El Centro is an essential component of our pre-deployment training as it allows both the aircrew and engineers to operate the Lynx in a hot and mountainous desert environment that is very comparable to that of Afghanistan. When we eventually deploy to Helmand we will provide high-readiness support to UK and coalition forces, predominantly in the over-watch and reconnaissance roles.”
During some well deserved down-time, Squadron personnel took time out to help distribute food and hygiene parcels in the Imperial Valley area. The event was organized by the international charity Feed The Children, through their programme: Americans feeding Americans.
Over 400 pre-identified families received a 25 lb box of food and a 10 lb box of personal care items; the boxes are designed to help a family of four for up to one week.
Lt Keith Adams RN said: “It was a privilege to be able to provide a helping hand with such a worthwhile charity”. He added, “It was a real eye opener to see how many people were in need of these charitable donations”.
Petty Officer Will Brooks said: “On hearing of all the positive feedback the feed the children program achieves within the local communities we have been working in whilst based in El Centro, it made it a pleasure to volunteer my spare time to help”.
LAET Karl Byrne said: “We volunteered for the Feed The Children food aid program today, all the parents were really thankful for the help we provided”. He added, “It was a really humbling experience”.
Lt Jared Smith USN Command Chaplain NAF El Centro said: "As the Command Chaplain at NAF El Centro, I would like to express my gratitude to the British Royal Navy for the contributions it has made in the support and service it has provided to our local community. Located in the Imperial Valley of California, our base is surrounded by some of the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the United States. The many hours of lifting boxes of food has lifted the spirits of countless local families as they struggle in this difficult economic climate. Whether fighting the war on terrorism or doing battle in the war on hunger, the British Royal Navy and the United States Navy are working together to make the world a safer and better place for all."
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