Dragon's Lynx back home
After 8 months away from home, the Lynx helicopter and flight personnel of one of the Royal Navy’s newest and most potent ships – HMS Dragon – returned to base at RNAS Yeovilton on Thursday, 21 November.
Having embarked the helicopter in mid-March, the ship sailed for operations that were mainly focussed in the Persian Gulf but also included anti-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean. En-route, the flight disembarked to the Greek Air Force base at Souda Bay in Crete to carry out mountain flying and other training while the ship conducted system trials. Laura Cambrook, the Flight Observer (27) said, “The disembarkation provided an amazing training opportunity and operating from another country’s airfield taught us all a lot.”
The ship then sailed via the Suez Canal and the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf. While conducting maritime security operations in the Gulf as part of Royal Naval and international task groups, Dragon’s main role was to ensure security at sea and to protect merchant shipping much of which is essential to the UK economy. Operations with the US aircraft carrier Eisenhower and mine countermeasures ships were a regular feature of the deployment in which the Lynx proved to be an essential part of Dragon’s weapons suite. Indeed, 226 Flight, as they are known, were joined for 2 months by 219 Flight and proved the versatility of the ship and the Lynx helicopters. This was the first time 2 Lynx had operated from a Type 45 destroyer.
Expecting to return to UK in October, the ship’s programme was extended in the Mediterranean. There were compensations for the added duty as the flight was able to sample the pleasures of Limasol, Rhodes, Naples, Malta and Gibraltar when the ship visited the ports.
Leading Aircraft Controller Leah Payne (23) who was on her first deployment with the Royal Navy said, “My objectives were to work hard and, when possible, play hard, and in all honesty it wasn't far from the reality. The experiences I have gained and can take away from the deployment have influenced my everyday life in the short term and I'm sure will benefit me in the longer term.”
The helicopter arrived at RNAS Yeovilton where they were met by the home team of 815 Squadron and families. However, the deployment doesn’t end until the ship returns to port. HMS Dragon will mark her return to Portsmouth on Friday by firing a 17-gun salute and the flight will be there to celebrate the return with their shipmates of the last 8 months.