Fleet Commander visits RNAS Culdrose
The Fleet Commander visited Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose to meet service personnel from across the Base, discuss current operations and see for himself the Navy’s next generation anti-submarine maritime patrol helicopter, Merlin Mk 2.
Vice Admiral Philip Jones CB, Fleet Commander & Deputy Chief of Naval Staff is the second most senior officer in Navy Command and responsible for providing ships, submarines and aircraft ready for any operations. On a tour around the Fleet Air Arm’s Cornish Air Station, Admiral Jones dropped in on Merlin Force where Commander Ben Franklin (Commander Merlin) briefed the Admiral on current deployments and future developments.
Showing off their latest addition to the Fleet, 824 Naval Air Squadron proudly had a Mark 2 ready for the visitor, Admiral Jones got the chance to chat with some of its aircrew. “We have recently started training other Sqn’s on the Merlin 2,” said Lt Tom Hougham, a flying instructor with 824 NAS. “The conversion programme has started for 820 NAS, one of our frontline Merlin Sqn’s. The Admiral was keen to know the differences between the MK 1 and Mk 2, and what it offers to the Fleet.” 820 NAS will be the first frontline Sqn to receive the new aircraft and are expected to be fully operational by summer 2014.
Moving onto the other units based at Culdrose the Admiral visited the Sea King Airborne Surveillance and Command (SKASaC) helicopters, which form part of Sea King Force along with the Royal Navy’s Search and Rescue Sqn, 771 NAS. Known informally as “Baggers” the Sea Kings of 849,854 and 857 NAS provide the crucial “Eye in the Sky” for the Fleet and currently has part of its force deployed. “I want to thank you all for the excellent maintenance and serviceability record the SKASaC has provided on operations”, said the Fleet Commander to gathered engineers from the Sea King Force. “Your accomplishments have not gone un-noticed.”
Vice Admiral Jones was also briefed by Commanding Officer Culdrose, Captain Mark Garrett, the Fixed Wing force and the RN School of Flight Deck Operations (RNSFDO) about future development of the “Dummy Deck”. Currently configured for the HMS Invincible class carrier and is looking towards the next decade and beyond when RNSFDO will provide personnel and flight deck operating procedures for the HMS Queen Elizabeth Carriers.