Global unit gives support closer to home
The Maritime Aviation Support Force (MASF) from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose has personnel deployed all over the world but for Exercise Joint Warrior they are working a little closer to home.
Working as a Deployable Support Team (DST), personnel from MASF are providing support to HMS Illustrious during this year’s Exercise Joint Warrior. The DST is led by Chief Petty Officer Air Engineering Mechanic Andrew ‘Topsy’ Turner. Making up his team are aircraft controllers, aircraft handlers, a chef and a steward, as well as air engineers. “I have a team of 15 supporting Culdrose’s Merlins from 820 Squadron on the exercise. My main role is running the Avionics workshop onboard.
MASF is structured to meet any request from the Royal Navy’s Aviation requirements. Specifically tailored teams are made up of anything between two to fifty specialists from the many trades or branches on the Units books. MASF provides , flight deck crews, air engineers, survival equipment specialists, aircraft controllers, chefs, stewards, logisticians and RN police; all lodged in one big manpower Unit.
Topsy continues; “In this job you have to be versatile. Last year when the Carrier was sent to the Philippines, during the UK’s Humanitarian Relief effort the MASF team helped out ashore with working parties. We were sent as part of a larger group to help a fishing village get back on its feet. It was hard work but very rewarding”.
MASF is a unique Unit within the Fleet Air Arm. Its personnel are available to be deployed where and when they are needed in support of the Royal Navy on operations worldwide.
One of the areas where MASF are working in HMS Illustrious is the Operations Room, providing specialist controllers for the exercise. “It’s been a busy but very rewarding time,” said Leading Aircraft Controller Alex Walker. “Working with the Ship’s Air Traffic Officers and many different embarked aircraft, keeping aircrew deck current and providing radar services. It’s important that everything runs smoothly and safely when Anti-submarine and Amphibious operations are taking place in such a dynamic environment”.
But their main role is on the Flight deck and a majority of this team are Aircraft Handlers (AH). Leading Airman (AH) Mark Grice is one of eight deployed supporting aircraft movements on deck and in the hangar. He has seen service on several Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships and most of the larger platforms in the RN. “This mixture of aircraft on the exercise has been exciting and challenging. Our team have been supporting the Hangar and the Flight deck operations throughout and the younger guys are certainly learning a lot”.
CPO Topsy Turner’s team disembark after Ex. Joint Warrior but already they are planning their next spells on board when HMS Illustrious takes part in a large Anti-submarine exercise in June and a then a longer deployment abroad later in the year.