Wildcat drops in on HMS Dragon
Pilot Lt Dave Neyland and Flight Observer Lt Sammy Haynes brought Wildcat ZZ377 safely on to Portsmouth-based warship as she ploughed through the Irish Sea following a visit to Liverpool.
Wildcat is currently undergoing extensive trials with 700W Naval Air Squadron, which has been formed especially to help introduce the helicopter into service.
As part of those trials, the aircraft has been working at the MOD’s aerial range in Cardigan Bay.
From next year, Wildcat will begin to replace the trusted Lynx Mark 8 as the helicopter which supports Royal Navy destroyer and frigate operations around the world.
As expected, the inaugural arrival of Wildcat on Dragon went seamlessly and the whole ship’s company got the chance to take a look and admire the latest addition to the Fleet Air Arm.
“Today is a small, but exciting step in the progression of this new capability and I am delighted that HMS Dragon was able to help,” said Captain Iain Lower, the Type 45’s Commanding Officer.
“I look forward to seeing what the aircraft can do when we put it through its paces later this month.”
After the brief visit off the Welsh coast, Wildcat will be a more permanent presence on board Dragon later this month as, for the first time, the helicopter is embarking on the ship for the latest Joint Warrior exercise.
This is a bi-annual exercise in which British and foreign armed forces hone their skills off the coast of Scotland for up to three weeks.
"This year will be one of many firsts for the Wildcat crews as we work with our industry partners to get the aircraft to sea as soon as we can,” said 700W’s Commanding Officer Lt Cdr Simon Collins, who flew on board Dragon with his squadron colleagues.
“Deck landings on board a Type 45 at sea are a real milestone and it was a pleasure to join the HMS Dragon team to show them what Wildcat can do.”
The Wildcat roll out programme continues apace, and plans are in motion for the current flight to be the first to complete Operational Sea Training with a Type 23 frigate in the autumn.
As for Dragon, following her lengthy and demanding maiden deployment last year to the Mediterranean and Middle East, the next few months are taken up with training and exercises such as Joint Warrior before she deploys for the second time in October.