STING RAY AWAY…
This is the Navy’s principal weapon in the fight against submarines leaving its rack on the Fleet Air Arm’s newest helicopter for the first time.
A Wildcat of 825 Naval Air Squadron spent two days overFalmouthBaypractising torpedo attacks, culminating in the launch of a dummy weapon.
In various forms, Sting Ray has been in service with the Royal Navy for more than 30 years. It’s carried by frigates (thrust out of launchers by a high-pressure air) and Fleet Air Arm Merlins who carry four, with Lynx helicopters armed with two. The Royal Navy’s submarines kill their underwater prey with the much heavier Spearfish torpedo.
The Lynx’s successor Wildcat is beginning to enter front-line service – the first is currently on deployment with HMS Lancaster in theAtlantic– and although it's undergone extensive trials and testing over the past five years, until now it’s not dropped a torpedo.
That was put right on the range off the Lizard Peninsula – brought back into use by Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose for torpedo tests only last year after a 15-year pause.
Normally, Sting Ray is packed with a 100 lb explosive charge, racing through the water at speeds in excess of 50 mph as it closes its underwater target. For the dummy runs and firing off Falmouth, a TVT (Training Variant Torpedo – 100 lb of concrete replaces the high explosive) was loaded aboard Wildcat ZZ378 at RNAS Culdrose in nearby Helston, not ten minutes’ flying time from the Cornish port.
As with a live Sting Ray, a drogue parachute slows the weapon’s entry into the water but the torpedo is set to float when it has completed its run and is then recovered by SERCO using boats working out ofFalmouth.
“This marks another milestone in the introduction into Service for the Wildcat HMA Mk2 and proves our ability to contribute to the UK and Royal Navy’s Anti Submarine Warfare capability,” said Lieutenant Frank Suter, the Wildcat observer and aviation warfare officer conducting the trials.