Yeovilton based squadrons face the wrath of winter in HMS Illustrious
The crew of HMS Illustrious are being fully tested as they face the full power of the arctic weather during their participation in the multinational exercise Cold Response.
The situation in the fictional “Nerthus” region (actually Northern Norway) is deteriorating as the country of “Gardarland” refuses to withdraw its troops from neighbouring “Borgland”. The multinational task force is on high alert and is readying itself for potential intervention in the disputed area.
This involves the crew of HMS Illustrious working around the clock in preparation for amphibious operations that may be required of them, the embarked Royal Marines and the helicopters of the Commando Helicopter Force. It is particularly challenging for those working on the flight deck. Day and night, they are facing blizzards and strong winds that can drop the temperature to minus 40oC as they marshal and refuel the essential helicopters. Fortunately, CHF personnel had recently completed their annual Cold weather training at the Royal Norwegian Air Force base Bardufoss Norway which is located 160 miles inside the arctic circle in Northern Norway so they were able to utilise their newly honed skills when they arrived onboard.
HMS Illustrious currently has 8 helicopters on board, all from RNAS Yeovilton. There are four Sea King Mk 4 from 845 and 846 Naval Air Squadrons, 3 x Lynx Mk 7 from 847 Naval Air Squadron and 1 Lynx Mk 8 from 815 Naval Air Squadron. With all of the aircrew needing to prepare for operating from the Ship in arduous conditions the result is a very busy flight deck.
Captain Martin Connell, the Commanding Officer of HMS Illustrious, said ‘HMS Illustrious and her embarked helicopter squadrons are certainly facing some tough arctic conditions. But we have prepared for this, both in terms of training and with all our equipment, and I am very pleased with the way the crew have approached the exercise throughout the ship. In particular the positive attitude and cheery enthusiasm of those operating on the flight deck has been vital and has allowed Illustrious to conduct helicopter operations around the clock in support of the multinational task force’.