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Published: 21 Aug 2020

The Royal Navy’s experts in remotely-piloted air systems have created three new flights ready to deploy to sea.

700X Naval Air Squadron is now ready to deploy on warships - marking a new phase in the technological development of aviation at sea.

Having completed months of training on various systems, eight sailors at the squadron, based at RNAS Culdrose, have now come together to form the three flights, known as Phantom Flights A, B and C. One extra member will join the team later in the year. Each flight consists of a commander as well as an air engineering technician and naval airman who each serve as remote-pilots.

The system they will take to sea, known as Puma, can be launched directly from a ship. It consists of a light-weight airframe but has sophisticated cameras and flight system.

Commander Tim Flatman, the commander of the fixed-wing force at Culdrose, handed over certificates to the members of the new flights on the completion of their training.  

Speaking to the assembled sailors, he said: “This represents the end of a lot of hard work by you all and you are now ready to take this capability to sea. It was just over a year ago that the gauntlet was laid down to send a deployable capability to sea.

"The fact that we are on the brink of achieving it despite the recent challenges is truly outstanding.

“You represent the vanguard of this new capability, which I have no doubt will expand over the coming years and I congratulate you all.”

The work and training by 700X NAS comes as the Royal Navy commits to investing in and embracing new technology. The navy aims to put the latest equipment on the frontline of operations and into the hands of its sailors and Royal Marines.

Drones and other autonomous systems are one of the areas the service is looking into. A recent day on HMS Prince of Wales brought together experts from the navy, MOD and industry to meet and discuss the vision for drone operations.

Lieutenant Commander Justin Matthews, the commanding officer of 700X NAS, said: “It is great to be able to say that we have now completed the many months of training to take this remotely-piloted system to sea. We have two flights ready to deploy and a third to follow later in the year.

“This is all about Royal Navy sailors flying from Royal Navy ships. The instructors and everyone at the squadron should be really proud of what we have all achieved as we move forward with this new technology. This is a new and exciting chapter for the Royal Navy.”

700X squadron is based at RNAS Culdrose at Helson, Cornwall, and uses the nearby Predannack Airfield on the Lizard peninsula as a training ground. 


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