AVIATORS PREPARE FOR ARCTIC SORTIES
Aviators from all three services are about to take to the icy skies over northern Norway for Arctic flying training.
But before they are able to undertake the aerial elements, they must know what it takes to survive on the ground in the deep freeze of Norway’s wilds.
That is why the personnel of Joint Helicopter Command must undergo training provided by Royal Marines specialists attached to Commando Helicopter Force (CHF), the naval service aviators based at RNAS Yeovilton who provide aerial support to the elite Green Berets.
This course gives vital insight into how to survive in one of the planet’s most inhospitable environments, where the sun barely rises and temperatures can plummet to around -30c.
The training also includes tactical awareness phases, meaning the pilots, aircrew and supporting personnel understand what it takes to survive and potentially fight if they find themselves on the ground rather than in the skies over the frozen battlefield.
This time around, the Cold Weather Survival Course, run by the Fleet Air Arm, is training the aviators of Aviation Task Force 2, which is deployed to the high north and includes Royal Navy Merlins and Wildcat, Army Apache attack helicopters and RAF Chinooks.
The course covers how to build quinzee shelters, which are made from a large amount of loose snow that is shaped and hollowed out, but also how to move on skis or snow shoes through deep snow.
The students must complete a yomp through the wilderness in harsh conditions and also complete the infamous ice breaking drills before they are ready to head to airfields at Bardufoss to begin Arctic flying training.
This is all part of the annual Exercise Clockwork deployment which is now in its 51st year.
It is very well established and this time around the Commando Wildcats of 847 Naval Air Squadron will be undergoing their flying training before heading to Exercise Cold Response, where they will be joined by their fellow CHF fliers of 845 Naval Air Squadron for the Norwegian-led war games.
While at Bardufoss, in northern Norway, the Wildcats will once again be working with the Apaches, as they did for the first time last year.
Apaches will be flying alongside the Wildcat battlefield reconnaissance helicopters of CHF, developing their ability to operate together.
The aircraft will then move onto Exercise Cold Response, where they will be joined by Royal Navy ships and Royal Marines on the multinational exercise.