Montrose spreads the Lynx effect to South Africa
TOURISTS in South Africa speak of the ‘big five’ safari animals – but a British warship made it six with her Lynx.
HMS Montrose’s Lynx helicopter was seen flying high over the Western Cape as she went through a week’s training.
The aircraft flew over stunning landscapes as her crew from 815 Naval Air Squadron worked with a South African Air Force maritime squadron at Ysterplaat (pronounced ace-ter-plart).
While at home operating at sea, some of the Lynx’s roles can only be practised well ashore, said Montrose’s flight commander Lt Cdr Paul Ellerton.
He said: “While operating at sea allows us to hone the majority of our skills, a disembarkation to somewhere like Ysterplaat is invaluable.
“Not only does it allow us to conduct mandated training such as instrument flying but we also have the opportunity to conduct challenging mountain flying, amidst some of the world’s most beautiful scenery.”
The Mk 8 SRU version of the aircraft was working while HMS Montrose was in for a short maintenance period in Simon’s Town. She lifted from the ship’s flight deck and flew over Chapman’s Peak Drive north up the Cape.
Met by 203 Flight’s maintainers from 22 Squadron, the British aircrew were immediately struck by the differences from Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton where they are based.
Instead of sandwiches the South Africans ate a working lunch from a barbecue in 30°C heat. There was no rest for the 815 NAS crew, however, as they squeezed 12 hours’ flying into the next four days. After meeting the Super Lynx and Oryx (Super Puma) crews of 22 Sqn SAAF, the aircrew were briefed on operating in South Africa – “Plenty of airspace available; do try to avoid the ostrich farms” – was the gist as training began.
The British aircraft, nicknamed Rosie, began solo familiarisation and low level navigation training around the mountains of the Western Cape under a blazing sun.
The contrasts of South Africa became apparent from the air. Only 20 minutes from the gleaming metropolis of Cape Town the Lynx was buzzing over vineyards, mansions and shanty towns, heading on to deep valleys and high mountain passes.
There were more flights, including tactical low-level work exploring the dusty hinterland and valleys of the Cape; instrument and general flying practice at Air Force Base Langebaanweg, 60 miles to the north, and an incredible morning in the mountain flying training area, approaching 6,000 feet pinnacles without a breath of wind and views to the coast 70 miles away.
A day later, as the sun set behind Table Mountain the helicopter lifted into the night and conducted another training sortie over the lights of towns and villages.
After leaving their 22 Sqn hosts the Lynx left to re-embark in Montrose, flying low over the sea south of Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, past pods of whales as the crew honed their anti-surface warfare skills.
Two target vessels – a merchant ship and a leisure boat out of Cape Town– were targeted with a simulated missile attack before the helicopter returned to Simon’s Town.
Back aboard Montrose, flight observer Lt Rich Bell said: “Atlantic Patrol Task South has been an incredible deployment so far, with some unforgettable flying at different locations and we can now add South Africa to that list.
“To be able to keep your training current in different environments and ones which are so spectacular is a real privilege. South Africa’s 22 Sqn have been fantastic hosts.”
HMS Montrose is currently the Royal Navy’s patrol ship for the South Atlantic.