Observers Course passing out
Three very delighted and proud Royal Naval Officers were awarded their Fleet Air Arm Observer Wings at a parade at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose by Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) Rear Admiral Ben Key.
After over a year of intense training that covered all aspects of naval airborne surveillance and control, Course 1/12 paraded to mark the successful completion of their flying training and receipt of their Wings. During the course the graduating aircrew have trained in Fighter control, Anti-Air and Anti-Surface Warfare as well as over-land Surveillance.
Receiving their Wings at the parade were Lieutenant John Clayton, Lieutenant Matthew Eccles and Lieutenant Simon Schetler who formed a close team during some tough times helping each other through the course. Simon also left his mark on the silverware by winning the 'Bell Davies Trophy’ gaining the best overall flying and ground results and the' Roue Trophy’ for best Ab-inito trainee on the squadron during the year.
“These Naval Aviators have joined the Fleet Air Arm at a most exhilarating time,” said Rear Admiral Ben Key, himself a Royal Naval Observer. “We are in a transition period that will see Joint Strike Fighter and HMS Queen Elizabeth entering service. It’s an enormous pleasure to present Wings to these observers; they have an exciting journey ahead.”
The Sea King Mk7 Airborne Surveillance and Control; known throughout the Navy as “Baggers” is the eye in the sky for the Navy, searching for threats to the Fleet or suspicious movements on the ground in support of land forces. They owe their nickname to the distinctive sack or bag on the side of each aircraft, which houses the cutting-edge Searchwater 2000, capable of remarkably accurate detection of surface and air targets. Once enemy units are detected, the helicopter’s observers can direct friendly air, sea or ground forces to intercept – as they did with devastating effect during the fighting in southern Iraq in 2003. Currently the men and women of the SKASaC force are operational in the skies of Afghanistan, where their surveillance equipment is vital for tracking insurgent’s movements.
John, Matthew and Simon have no time to sit around and relax after their course as work will begin again after a short break. They will be preparing and training for frontline deployments to Afghanistan on Operation HERRICK and on the Royal Navy’s COUGAR Deployment, with the Fleet to the Eastern Mediterranean and beyond Suez later in the summer.
Three very welcome French guests to Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose were delighted at the splendid turn out on 849 Naval Air Squadron Wings parade, when Observers Course 1/12 passed for duty.
The French Navy party, led by the Commanding Officer of Naval Air Station Landivisiau, Captain Hervé Hamelin, accompanied by Lieutenant Anthony Camblan and Lieutenant Julien Fabre, were invited to the passing out parade after the Fleet Air Arm Observers course had operated from BAN Landivisiau in Brittany during their course. The Royal Navy aviators had taken part in a pre-deployment exercise for the French Carrier Air Group which consisting of Rafale, Super Étendard fighters and E2-C Hawkeye surveillance aircraft.
The fortnight detachment, over the French Navy’s Air Defence exercise, 849 Naval Air Squadron Sea King Mk7 Airborne Surveillance and Control, (SKASaC) helicopters, provide carrier strike and airborne early warning for the Flagship of the Marine Nationale, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, FS Charles de Gaulle.
Similar cross-over exercises and joint ventures are planned in the future as the Royal Navy’s Airborne Surveillance force work towards the arrival of the HMS Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers, who will join the Fleet in the next five years.
Commenting on the Wings parade, Lt Anthony Camblan said, “We were not expecting the grandeur of a full parade like this, with a Guard of honour and band. It was good to see the families of the students and Senior Naval Officers all together sharing the moment; C’est Magnifique.”