JOINT HELICOPTER FORCE GETS READY FOR COUGAR
A Joint Helicopter Force (JHF) from Defence’s Joint Helicopter Command has been on exercise across the South West of England in preparation for Cougar 15; the Royal Navy’s major deployment to the Mediterranean this year.
As part of Exercise South West Sword, helicopters from the JHF have been flying missions across the beaches and training areas of Devon andCornwall, working with the Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade and the staff of Commodore Amphibious Task Group (COMATG).
During the week long manoeuvres, RAF Chinook and Army Air Corps Apache aircraft have operated from the flight deck of HMS Ocean, along with Wildcat AH Mk1’s of 847 Naval Air Squadron and Merlin Mk 2’s of 814 Naval Air Squadron who are also embarked for the Cougar deployment. This Combined Air Group makes up the aviation component of what is called the Joint Expeditionary Force - Maritime (JEF (M)), which is set to leaveUKwaters and head south for exercises with French, American and other NATO forces during October and November.
Lieutenant Colonel Mark Johnson Royal Marines, Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) Chief of Staff and Commanding Officer of the JHF said,
“This initial phase of our deployment, called Ex South West Sword has been essential work up training for all of the crews and engineers involved with the JHF. Deploying on such a major deployment like Cougar with so many different aircraft can be demanding; but it offers the Force a great opportunity to work together in a maritime environment.”
In total; two Chinooks from 28 Squadron RAF, four Apaches from 656 Squadron Army Air Corps and four brand New Wildcat AH MK 1 from the Commando Helicopter Forces’ 847 Naval Air Squadron made up the principle players in JHF2. These aircraft were supported by engineers for all the aircraft types, operations staff and the CHF Commando Mobile Air Operations Team (MAOT); The JHF is a sizeable Unit onboard HMS Ocean and HMS Bulwark.
It was also the first deployment for the Wildcats in their maritime role and they are busy honing their skills with the Apaches and Chinooks.
Lt Col Johnson continued,
“The deployment is crucial for our collective training and force preparation, ensuring continual availability of the JEF (M) lead element, with particular focus on the integration of joint enablers such as the helicopters of JHF. Cougar offers JHC the opportunity to work in the Joint, Combined and Embarked environment whilst carrying out Littoral Manoeuvre (LitM) and Amphibious training.”