Flight Home For Christmas
FIRST Wildcat Flight to land on HMS Queen Elizabeth returns home after 4 months at sea in time for Christmas.
213 Flight and their Wildcat HMA2 from 815 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) has been deployed with HMS MONMOUTH on Operation Westlant 18 since mid-August 2018. The flight has been integral to the task group and has flown over 120 hours in support of the first F-35 Lightning jet landings and subsequent trials on HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH (QNLZ).
During this time 213 Flight have conducted the first Wildcat landings on both RFA TIDE SPRING and HMS QNLZ, provided smooth rides for Bear Grylls and Prince Michael of Kent and worked with multiple units of the US Navy to develop tactics vital to the future operations of HMS QNLZ. The Royal Navy’s newest helicopter, callsign ‘Blackjack’ not only made history but also augmented force protection as the Type 23 Frigate provided security at sea as the Carrier conducted historic trials with the F35B-II Lightening
Commanding Officer of 815 NAS, Commander Jamieson Stride welcomed them back into the fold at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton and said
“I am delighted to welcome 213 Flight back home after a hugely successful deployment in HMS MONMOUTH. It has been a great honour for the Flight, deploying alongside HMS QNLZ on her maiden deployment Their Wildcat, superbly maintained by 213 Flight engineers, was always serviceable and available for the wide range of tasks the Carrier Strike Group staff required. 213 Flight’s families should be rightly proud of the team’s achievements and I wish them all a very Merry Christmas.”
Port stops included Mayport (Florida), Norfolk (Virginia), Charleston (South Carolina) and Baltimore (Maryland) enabling the flight to sample the delights of US culture along most of the Eastern Seaboard. In Baltimore, for Maryland Fleet Week, the ship was open to visitors and the flight was able to show off the Wildcat to civilians and military personnel alike. In Norfolk, for Thanksgiving, the flight were able to push further afield; the USS SAN JACINTO hosted many of the flight for Thanksgiving dinner
Flight Commander, Lieutenant Ollie Brooksbank was met by his wife Frankie and his two year old daughter Evelyn and said.
“ Its great to be home! We’ve gad a pretty exciting time over the past four months and what we have seen during this period is probably setting the tone for the Royal Navy for the next 50 years. I look forward to bringing lessons back into the Wildcat Maritime Force.”
The Type-23 frigate has been operating as part of the Carrier Strike Group since the ships sailed from the UK in August on Operation WESTLANT 18. Her role has been to provide security at sea for HMS QNLZ as she conducted hugely successful and historic trials with the F35 During this deployment she will have travelled 20 000 miles, celebrated her 25th Birthday and narrowly avoided two hurricanes!
Sophie Hume was there to greet her husband, Pilot Lt James Hume’s and said:
“ It has felt like a very long time and I’m so excited to see him, its been hard but I’m so proud of his achievements.”
HMS Monmouth is a critical part of the Task Group, able to protect HMS QNLZ as an escort and operate independently should the mission require. The Task Group also comprised the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Tanker RFA Tidespring and was joined by the American destroyer USS Lassen, demonstrating the close relationship the two navies share and continue to build on as the UK re-establishes its Carrier Strike capability.
Welcome home 213!