Culdrose aircraft depart for naming ceremony of HMS Queen Elizabeth
Aircraft from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose have set off this morning to prepare for a flypast to celebrate the ‘naming’ of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier – HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The new aircraft carrier will be officially named by Her Majesty The Queen at a ceremony in Scotland on Friday 4th July. The naming ceremony at Rosyth dockyard in Fife will mark the completion of the 65,000-tonne ship which will be Britain's biggest ever carrier.
The new aircraft carrier is very important to the Cornish air station, because wherever HMS Queen Elizabeth goes, the helicopters of the Fleet Air Arm will go with her. Therefore Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose has sent up aircraft from its ‘Sea King’, ‘Merlin’ and ‘Fixed Wing’ Forces to take part in the celebrations in Scotland.
Helicopters are a key element of carrier operations and it is expected that most of HMS Queen Elizabeth’s deployments will have a mixed ‘Air Group’ of fixed and rotary wing aircraft to allow the ship to conduct a broad range of tasks in a changing environment.
So that the Cornish Air Station is ready for this greater focus on ‘carrier operations’, Culdrose has brought its various squadrons together to form a ‘Culdrose Carrier Air Group’ where different types of aircraft (fixed and rotary wing) practice working closely alongside each other but with joint engineering and logistics.
“Queen Elizabeth affects everything we do,” explains Captain Mark Garratt, Commanding Officer of Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose. “Culdrose has an absolutely crucial role to play in training pilots, observers and providing deck handlers. So we have started to operate the air base more like an aircraft carrier, so that when people leave Culdrose and go onboard, it feels quite similar.”
At the end of the decade, the majority of the helicopters in the carrier’s air group will be drawn from Culdrose. Merlin Mk2s will provide the shield against submarine attack, and another Merlin variant as its eyes in the sky, replacing the current Airborne Surveillance and Control Sea Kings which perform the function today.
Culdrose also makes another important contribution to operations at sea - no aircraft will take off or land without the direct involvement of the air station. For key to all flight deck movements will be Queen Elizabeth’s aircraft handlers who will be trained, as all Royal Navy handlers have been for more than half a century, at the School of Flight Deck Operations, based at Culdrose. In order to prepare for flight deck movements on a much bigger scale, teams of aircraft handlers from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose have been serving with US carriers for the past 18 months, gaining invaluable experience.