Wildcat update for First Sea Lord
The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas visited the RNAS Yeovilton on Friday, 3 October. He received updates on the Air Station including the new Wildcat Training Centre. The visit was rounded off with his first flight in the Maritime version of the Wildcat helicopter.
Admiral Sir George is the professional head of the Royal Navy and an experienced Fleet Air Arm helicopter pilot. Among other helicopters, he has flown the Lynx that is the predecessor of the Wildcat helicopter both of which are manufactured by the Air Station’s nearby neighbours AgustaWestland.
The First Sea Lord was greeted by the Air Station Commanding Officer, Commodore Jock Alexander who said, “It a great pleasure to welcome back the First Sea Lord and to update him on the business and operations at RNAS Yeovilton. Naval Aviation is a demanding and fundamental element of the Royal Navy’s operational capability and we relish the opportunity to highlight the essential contribution of this Air Station.”
In additional to the operational business focus, Sir George spent time with a cross-section of Air Station personnel discussing issues of the day. The First Sea Lord started by highlighted the very bright future in store for the Royal Navy with an exciting and ambitious equipment programme that includes 2 aircraft carriers, modern destroyers and frigates, as well as the aircraft and helicopters that will operate from them. He also spoke about some of the challenges that face the Senior Service, after which he answered questions from the assembled team.
During the visit Sir George found time to judge the Yeovilton ‘Great Cake Bake’ competition that raised money for Macmillan Cancer Support. Having reviewed over 30 cakes, most of which would grace the BBC’s hit TV programme, The First Sea Lord declared the winner to be a chocolate cake made by Pat Longhurst, a Civil Servant who works in the Supply Chain Operations Cell. Pat told the First Sea Lord that she had worked at the Air Station for over 13 years; she loves cooking and was delighted to be presented with a baker’s cookery book which Admiral Sir George signed for her. He then tucked into a generous helping of the cake declaring it as delicious at it had looked. He also had coffee in the recently refurbished Air Station coffee shop, Maisie’s. The coffee shop was named after the mother of Rear Admiral Sir Donald Gosling, Vice-Admiral of theUnited Kingdom, who is a major benefactor of naval charities.
Having inspected the Wildcat Training Centre that is run by AugustaWestland on behalf of the Royal Navy, Admiral Sir George joined Lieutenant Simon Wilson, a Pilot, and Lieutenant Commander Mike Wingfield, an Observer of 825 Naval Air Squadron for an aircraft familiarisation and capability demonstration flight. After the sortie, The First Sea Lord said, “That was a fantastic experience. I’ve flown many hours in the Lynx and, while the airframe of the Wildcat looks like that of a Lynx; that is the end of the similarity. The Wildcat is our newest maritime helicopter and the capability advance offered to the Fleet is immense. I look forward to seeing 825 Squadron develop the full range of capabilities and deployment of the helicopter to front line operations in early 2015.”
825 Naval Air Squadron is the newest Squadron of the Lynx Wildcat Maritime Force (LWMF); with a proud history including Second World War attacks on the German Fleet, during Operation Fuller (known as the Channel Dash); participation in the attack on the Bismarck and in more recent years during the 1982 Falkland’s War.
The Squadron is now responsible for training aircrew and engineers to fly, operate and maintain the Royal Navy’s latest helicopter, the Wildcat HMA Mk2. 825 NAS will convert all the existing Lynx HMA Mk8 aircrew and engineers to the Wildcat whilst providing Wildcat HMA Mk 2 Flights to the Front Line, in order to maintain support to operations around the globe.
In delivering this training and support, 825 NAS currently has 130 aircrew and engineers who train in excess of 25 aircrew and 100 maintainers annually. The Wildcat HMA Mk2 is replacing the Lynx HMA Mk8, a process that will be complete in 2017, whilst the first Wildcat Flight will deploy on operations in early 2015. 825 NAS is also home to the award winning Royal Navy Helicopter Display Team, The Black Cats, who display around theUK throughout the year.
Wildcat Training Centre (WTC) is the facility responsible for providing Technical and Simulation Training to all RN and Army Wildcat Operators based at Yeovilton, including both Engineers and Aircrew. There are over 60 different courses that use the latest technology to ensure the Instruction is at the highest level.
Synthetic Training Equipment is still being delivered and tested this will eventually include 2 Full Mission Simulators, 2 procedural (non moving) simulators as well as 2 ‘airframes’ to teach mechanical and avionic systems. The facility is run by a mixture of Civilian (AgustaWestland) staff, Royal Navy Aircrew Instructors and Army Tactical Instructors.