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RFA Lyme Bay helicopter proves defensive flare operation -Crown Copyright-CPO Steve Wilson


Published: 29 Jul 2015

Ships in the Caribbean have been treated to an impromptu daytime firework display as the Lynx helicopter ofRFALymeBaytested her defences. 

The Royal Navy helicopter fired their Infra-Red Countermeasures – better known as flares – over waters offGrand Caymanduring a training flight for the 180-knot aircraft. 

Flares are intended to decoy incoming heat-seeking missiles by drawing them away from the Lynx’s engines on to a much hotter target.

The firing was part of a number of sorties for the flight which included a practice shoot for the sniper team, a chance to test the defensive flares and a rehearsal of the ship’s use of smoke flame floats. These are dropped into the ship’s wake when the helicopter makes a radar-controlled approach in very low visibility. 

Pilot Lieutenant Oliver Brooksbank of 234 Flight said the purpose was to prove all the systems correctly function as it is the start of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship’s deployment to the Caribbean.

“Testing our kit before entering a theatre of operations is vital – importantly it gives us the confidence to use it when necessary to complete the mission,” he said. “Moreover it’s incredibly satisfying for the team of air engineers to see that their work has an obvious output; and that they’ve successfully prepared their aircraft for whatever the Navy demands of her.”

A ten-strong team from 815 Naval Air Squadron based at Yeovilton inSomerset are supporting the Lynx throughoutLymeBay’s six-month deployment. 

The helicopter is being used principally in the fight against trafficking in the region – tracking, chasing and, if necessary, stopping ‘go-fast’ boats used by drug-runners – but can provide assistance in disaster relief by ferrying equipment and people to hurricane-hit areas.

The crew of Flight Commander Lieutenant Commander Rob Kenchington, pilot Lieutenant Oliver Brooksbank, observer (navigator/weapons specialist) Lieutenant Max Cosby and winchman Air Engineering Technician Dale Ward are also ready to respond to mayday calls. 

As well as maintaining the aircraft, 30-year-old Dale has been taking part in a number of winching sorties over the past few days. 

“It means I have to put my life in the hands of the aircrew on a regular basis when I am hanging from the winch wire; I suppose it’s only fair since they put their lives in our hands when we maintain the aircraft,” he said. 

Lt Cosby added: “Winching sorties are always very rewarding. The winchman puts his life fully in our hands as he attaches himself to the wire and has all his equipment double-checked to ensure he is secure before he then approaches the door and prepares to be lowered. I know I would be fairly reluctant to be lowered onto the signal deck 120 feet above theAtlanticbut time and again AET Ward is willing to do it. It reinforces the fact that naval flying relies on complete mutual trust between every single member of the whole flight at every moment- that’s why I love my role in the Fleet Air Arm.” 

RFALymeBaywill be in theCaribbeanuntil the end of the year. Her next port of call is the British Overseas Territory of Anguilla.


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