Golden Days for Lynx Force
With the eyes and attention of the World on the Nation’s capital for the 2012 London Olympic Games the Lynx Wildcat Maritime Force are bringing their own golden moments to this once in a lifetime spectacular event.
Based on board the Royal Navy’s largest Warship HMS Ocean, the five Lynx helicopters are deployed from their base at the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton for the duration of the Olympic Games. A detachment of over 60 personnel made up of engineers, aircrew and support staff, working alongside a similar force of Army Lynx also based on the Navy’s Helicopter Carrier.
HMS Ocean’s role as an Amphibious Assault Ship would normally be to deliver troops to the centre of the action by helicopter or landing craft. She has six helicopter operating spots on her flight deck and the large hangar can hold many more aircraft.
“The Ships role during the Olympics is to support the Air and Maritime Security Plan which involves embarking Lynx helicopters from the Royal Navy and the Army, additionally the ship is taking a bigger role in supporting and accommodating the Venue Security Forces. They have the responsible for security at Greenwich Park and the Equestrian events. Usually the Ship would pick people up from one place, take them a thousand miles and drop them on a beach, ready to fight. It’s got the infrastructure to feed, wash, and sleep a large force in comfort. She is a very capable Ship and good at embarking people and looking after them”. Said Lieutenant Commander Nigel Cunningham, Detachment Commander of the Navy Lynx Force on HMS Ocean.
Nigel’s job is to supervising the Yeovilton contingent. Being part of the headquarters staff from the Lynx Wildcat Maritime Force, he’s been planning this for well over a year. The aviation safety aspects of operating from HMS Ocean in the middle of the Thames at the heart one of the busiest City’s in the world, during the Games has produced many challenges. Much of the daily tasking begins every early in the morning and there is normally four or five briefs throughout the day to keep them up dated with what’s going on. “We have to be aware of the noise complaints from the residences of Greenwich and the near-by London boroughs. Then there’s the equestrian aspect to consider, helicopters and horses don’t mix to well, so we have to plan very thoroughly”.
Another side to operating the Navy Lynx off such a large Ship is how different the working conditions are. Running with the administration and day to day needs of the detachment is Petty Officer Air Engineering Technician Paul Andrews. Routinely at Yeovilton Paul is an Engineering supervisor on 702 Naval Air Squadron, but here he’s what’s known in the Royal Navy as 'The Reggie’. “I’m here to look after the routine side of things. I’ve served with Sea Harriers so my experience is handy on such a big ship. Most of the Lynx guys would only have been on a single spot ship. Ocean isn’t going anywhere, so we’ve adapted a stationary routine. Normally everyone would be looking forward to the next port of call and runashore. The young lads have adapted to this very well”.
The Lynx crews flying during the Olympic are enjoying the spectacle of the games. One crew was airborne during the opening ceremony. “We’ve exercised and rehearsed this role for a long time now; it’s been a steep learning curve. Up until the opening ceremony it felt just like any other exercise, we were doing everything a regular military exercise. After the fireworks it suddenly feels like we were not doing this just for the sake of it. The realisation that it’s is a huge worldwide event soon changed our mindset”.
Despite the early mornings and long days, the Lynx Team are enjoying their moment in the spotlight. With all
The Gold medals being won by the Great British Olympic Team there is no other place in the world to be during the summer of 2012. Lt Cdr Nigel Cunningham certainly thinks so, “Greenwich is a fabulous place, steeped with Naval tradition and Maritime Heritage. The public have been so very positive about our presence in London; it’s a great place to be”.