RNAS Culdrose - squadron heads off for HMS Queen Elizabeth
More than 190 aircrew and engineers with seven helicopters have left RNAS Culdrose to take part in the UK’s historic carrier strike deployment.
Almost the entire personnel from 820 Naval Air Squadron have left to join the carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth – their new home for the better part of this year.
The carrier – the Royal Navy’s flagship – is taking part in exercises in UK waters in preparation for her maiden deployment to the Far East later this spring. Working with the UK’s allies and NATO partners, she will visit 40 countries on her deployment to the Far East.
All seven Merlin Mk2 aircraft were drawn up on the dispersal at RNAS Culdrose on Tuesday morning, ahead of planned departures throughout the day. As well as anti-submarine warfare aircraft, they included three helicopters converted for airborne surveillance and control and fitted with powerful radars through the Crowsnest programme.
The helicopters of 820 Naval Air Squadron are the airborne guardians of the strike fleet. Between them, they will defend the carrier and her escorts from threats below the waves, on the surface and in the air.
Commander Ian Varley, the commanding officer of 820 Naval Air Squadron, said: “This is a proud moment today. A tremendous amount of work has gone into getting us ready for this.
“ASaC is a new capability inserted into the existing Merlin Mk2 helicopter fleet. We are now embarking that in the carrier strike group, so we can have constant surveillance of the sea and airspace around the ships. This will protect the carrier and her escorts from any potential threat, be that missiles, aircraft or other warships.
“From my personal point, having ASaC back in the Fleet Air Arm is getting us back to where we used to be of old. I first started flying anti-submarine warfare helicopters and I also flew the equivalent of ASaC, which was the airborne early warning Sea King. That was when we had carriers with Sea Harriers and we were able to deploy anywhere around the world.
“Moving forward now into 2021, we are re-establishing that capability with our new carriers, as we work with our allies on this historic deployment for the Royal Navy and the United Kingdom.”
820 Naval Air Squadron is one of three Merlin Mk2 helicopter squadrons at RNAS Culdrose at Helston.