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Left to Right AET Tom Wallis, Lt Alex Lovell-Smith (Pilot) and LCpl  Ross Howling (Aviation Crewman)
Lance Corporal Howling and Lieutenant Alex Lovell-Smith being interviewed by BBC and ITV

End of an era for Junglie Squadron

Published: 22 Jan 2013

It will be the end of an era for the trusted Lynx helicopters flown by 847 NAS as personnel deployed to the battlefield of Afghanistan. On the Squadron’s return to RNAS Yeovilton the veteran aircraft from the Commando Helicopter Force will be replaced with the military's most advanced fleet of Wildcat combat helicopters.

When deployed in Afghanistan the squadron will be based at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province where the tour is expected to last about five months. Its aircraft will carry out essential surveillance and reconnaissance missions while also supporting ground troops.

Lieutenant Colonel Nick Venn RM, Commanding Officer of 847 Squadron, said: "In many ways it is the end of an era as the Lynx has served us and the Army so well since the 1970s. The variant we are taking over to Helmand is the Lynx Mk 9A, which is optimised to deal with harsh conditions such as the heat, dust and mountain ranges in Afghanistan.

"It is ideal for the environment and the boys and girls of this squadron have been training really hard over the past few months to prepare themselves for Theatre. We're really excited that when we return around May time we will be the first to work with the new Wildcats in service. They are incredible machines."

The Wildcat, built and designed by AgustaWestland in Yeovil, is due to enter active service later this year. It is fitted with more powerful engines so it operates well in extreme heat such as in Afghanistan, where the air is thinner and dustier.

The £26 million aircraft has a maximum speed of 181mph and can carry forward-firing rockets, machine guns, door-mounted machine guns. RNAS Yeovilton will become the home of the Wildcat fleet, with a centre-of-excellence training academy.

One of the Lynx teams now deployed consists of 24-year-old pilot Lieutenant Alex Lovell-Smith, Air Engineering Technician Tom Wallis, 22, and Lance Corporal Ross Howling, 25.

It will be Lance Corporal Howling's second tour of Afghanistan, but for his comrades it will be their first.

"You do build up an attachment to the aircraft," said Lieutenant Lovell-Smith. "The Lynx continues to serve the Armed Forces extremely well and will be missed. But we are looking forward to the opportunity of being the first to work on the Wildcat as it is always exciting to work on brand new aircraft."


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