702 NAS makes history
FOR the first time three Fleet Air Arm helicopters have touched down on the back of a Royal Navy destroyer to train future front-line Naval aviators.
The trio of Lynx from 702 Naval Air Squadron at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton joined HMS Dauntless off the south coast as the fliers get their sea legs.
702 is used to prepare aircrew and engineers who’ve learned the basics of helicopters and teaches them how to master the Lynx Mk8, the helicopter which is the mainstay of the Royal Navy’s warship operations around the globe.
Key to the training given by 702 is the Operational Conversion Phase, which involves putting trainees through their paces at sea.
The mechanics and technicians learn how to maintain the hi-tech helicopter in the cramped confines of a hangar which pitches and rolls with the motion of the ocean; they also learn how to integrate with a ship’s company.
The aircrew learn how to take off, land and conduct other manoeuvres at sea – just as they’ll be expected to do for real when they join the front-line Lynx squadron 815, also based at RNAS Yeovilton.
For their seagoing training, air and ground crew typically join a Royal Fleet Auxiliary – RFA Argus is the usual choice as the dedicated aviation training ship – or perhaps an aircraft carrier such as HMS Illustrious or Ocean.
But for the first time, the students are making use of a Type 45, its huge flight deck (which can accommodate a Chinook) and its cavernous hangar (which can take two Mark 8 Lynx with some room to spare).
Due to the space and aviation facilities afforded by the Navy’s state-of-the-art Type 45 destroyers, they are able to operate routinely with two embarked Lynx helicopters – Dauntless herself paved the way for this with trials two years ago – or just one of the much larger Merlin.
Two Lynx from 702 have embarked for the training; the third paid a flying visit as the squadron’s Commanding Officer, Cdr Anthony Rimington, landed to meet the students and see how they were progressing.
As a result Dauntless found herself in the unique position of operating three helicopters – underlining the flexibility and capability of new destroyers.
“By dealing with three aircraft, I think it just goes to show how versatile and flexible a Type 45 can be,” said the destroyer’s Commanding Officer Cdr Adrian Fryer.
“Dauntless has been thoughtfully designed and is proving well suited to conducting this type of high-tempo flying operations.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to integrate these aircraft and more importantly these aircrew into our ship’s company, and provide them with the platform and support they need to achieve their training.”
Lt Cdr Gareth Ingram, the senior aviation training officer aboard the Portsmouth-based warship, added: “This phase of training marks the culmination of three to five years of instruction for the trainees.
“During this period on Dauntless, they will be engaging in an exercise scenario which will test the limits of not only their flying ability but their ability to operate effectively within a tactical war-fighting scenario.”
Dauntless returned from her maiden deployment to the North and South Atlantic in the autumn, since when the ship has undergone some minor maintenance in Portsmouth and her crew have enjoyed some well-earned leave.
After the winter break, training resumes – including an extensive period of gunnery on one of the naval ranges around the UK – interspersed with visits to the places with which she is affiliated.