End of an Era For Junglie Squadron
Standing proudly by the tail of one of his Lynx helicopters, Lt Col Nicholas Venn Royal Marines, Commanding Officer of 847 Naval Air Squadron, marks the passing of an era.
This is the very last 'Royal Marines' liveried Lynx Mk7 battlefield helicopter – easily distinguishable from their maritime Mk 8 counterparts courtesy of their grey-green battlefield camouflage and skids instead of wheels as landing gear – to fly with 847 Naval Air Squadron.
The Yeovilton-based Squadron, one of four in the Commando Helicopter Force which serve as the ‘wings’ of the Navy’s elite infantry, is switching to the Lynx Mk9A ahead of the Squadron’s return to Afghanistan.
As well as being a better equipped battlefield aircraft, the Lynx Mk9A is distinguished by wheels as an undercarriage and markedly different engines.
And when their tour of duty in Helmand is complete, 847 will return to Somerset and become the first squadron in the Armed Forces to convert to the new Wildcat AH1, the next generation of Army Battlefield Helicopter.
So this was an occasion 847’s Commanding Officer did not want to go unnoticed.
“Throughout the Squadron’s history is an unflinching desire to support the Commandos’ main effort, whether at sea or on land, and in a wide variety of aircraft types.” said Lt Col Venn “And the future appears bright for the Squadron with the arrival of the Mk9A, followed by the Wildcat.”
Uniquely for a Naval Air Squadron, 847 have traditionally flown helicopters with ‘Royal Marines’ painted on the tail whereas the other Commando Helicopter Force squadrons (845, 846 and 848) fly Sea King marked with ‘Royal Navy’. This tradition traces its roots back to the late 1960s with 3 Commando Brigade Air Squadron Royal Marines, flying Sioux, Scout, Gazelle and, most recently Lynx. The latter were introduced after the Falklands and, armed with TOW missiles proved particularly effective in destroying Saddam Hussein’s armour around Basra in 2003. In 2005, 847 NAS switched to its current role: reconnaissance, light utility and battlefield intelligence.
It’s these latter duties the Squadron will perform once more in the skies of Helmand and, whilst mourning the passing of the venerable Mk7 'RM' – for the historical record, the last Mk7 to fly with the Squadron was ZD282 – the Squadron is getting its hands on a superior aircraft. Thanks to its more powerful engines, the Mk9A is much better suited to the ‘hot and high’ operations in Afghanistan.
Wheels instead of skids place less stress on the undercarriage – which means the helicopter can carry a heavier payload – as it can carry out a conventional ‘running’ take off or landing.