New Commanding officer for Wildcat Squadron
Command of 700(W) Naval Air Squadron (NAS), tasked with bringing the new Wildcat Helicopter Maritime Attack Mk2 in to service with the Royal Navy, was handed over to on Wednesday 24 July to Lieutenant Commander Simon Collins.
Lt Cdr Collins (36), was honoured to be selected for command of 700(W) NAS. He said:
“To be a part of the future of the Fleet Air Arm is a real privilege. The Wildcat is a huge step forward and will provide an enormous capability for the Royal Navy and Defence for the next 30 years and beyond.”
Lt Cdr Collins, who lives in Ilchester with his wife Jenny and two children, joined the Royal Navy in 1999 for initial officer training. Career highlights since then have included deployments to the Arabian Gulf for the second Gulf War and Operation Telic, to Antarctica with HMS Endurance in support of the British Antarctic Survey including providing a platform for the filming of the BBC Planet Earth documentaries, seven months of counter narcotics in the Caribbean achieving 3 successful drug busts (the largest of which resulted in the seizure of £240m worth of Cocaine), and an appointment in HMS Ocean as the Air Operations Officer engaged in Joint Operations over a 3 year period including Apache operations – the helicopter’s first time afloat - and resulted in him being awarded a Chief of Joint Operations (CJO's) Commendation.
Saying farewell as CO was Lieutenant Commander Rob Taylor who took command of 700(W) NAS in September 2010, he moves to the brand new Wildcat Training Centre to develop the Wildcat Simulator built by Indra in Spain. He said:
“I am obviously sad to be leaving the Squadron after nearly 3 years at the helm and at a crucial time for the aircraft, but I am immensely proud of having brought the Wildcat AH and HMA in to service with the RN, and of the team that worked so hard to achieve these milestones. I am now excited about the opportunity of taking this experience and applying it to the simulated environment to produce a first class training facility.
700 is the number the Fleet Air Arm use to identify their evaluation Squadron as each new Type or Mark of aircraft enters service. The suffix letter then further identifies the type of aircraft that is being flown or evaluated. This time around 700 Squadron reformed on 14 May 2009 as 700(W) Naval Air Squadron based at RNAS Yeovilton, specifically to deal with the introduction to service of the Wildcat maritime attack helicopter.
700(W) NAS has been working to optimise operating procedures and ensure the safe and efficient delivery of Wildcat Operational Capability. This is known as the Tactical Development phase or TACDEV for short, and follows on from the testing done by the Combined Test Team of industry and military test pilots at AgustaWestland have already proven the safety and compliance of the aircraft prior to its delivery.
700(W) NAS is responsible for the conversion of all existing Lynx aircrew onto the Wildcat, as well as providing the core of personnel to set up the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) for Wildcat due to stand up in early 2015.