Young pilot makes history with first deck landing on HMS Queen Elizabeth

A Merlin helicopter lands on HMS Queen Elizabeth’s enormous flight deck – the first aircraft to ever touch down on Britain’s biggest warship.

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Fleet Air Arm Merlins deploy aboard French assault ship

Royal Navy MerlinWhile the UK and French governments continue to mince words regarding the Brexit negotiations, for their respective military forces working together it seems its business as usual. The French Navy amphibious assault ship FS Mistral left Toulon earlier this week to begin the service’s anuual five month Jeanne d’Arc deployment. Joining the ship’s air wing of transport helicopters were two Royal Navy Merlin HC.3A helicopters of the Fleet Air Arm’s No.845 Naval Air Squadron. The British contingent includes up to sixty personnel to operate and maintain the aircraft in support of French forces during the deployment.

Speaking on the deployment, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:

France is one of our closest allies and our world class maritime forces are combining to show we can operate together effectively. Whether deployed together at sea, striking Daesh from the air, or contributing to NATO deployments in the Baltics, Britain and France will continue to work hard for our shared security.

Other aircraft deployed aboard the Mistral include a French Navy Dauphin to provide SAR and light utility duties and two French Army Gazelle light observation helicopters. Ground forces onboard will include the French Army’s Embedded Tactical Group. The deployment will take the force to Japan, Guam, Vietnam, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Australia. Barring the vessel is not called to respond to a major incident, the FS Mitsral is expected cover some 24,000 miles.

As well as exercising France’s foreign policies the deployment will provide intensive training for those onboard with the French Navy outlining;

The Jeanne d’Arc mission also integrates elements from other armies and services. Among them were Saint-Cyrians, doctors from the army health service, commissioners of the Armed Forces Commissariat, pupils of the Directorate-General for Armaments and pupils administrators of maritime affairs. A plurality which gives this mission a significant and formative joint dimension for all these young future cadres.

It is within this operational framework that 137 French and foreign pupil officers of the promotion EAOM 2017 make their first operational deployment of long duration.

Royal Navy’s last Lynx deployment

2017 will see the end of this remarkable aircraft’s career with the Royal Navy as it Lynx HMA.8 ZF562 404 HMS Monmouth Iron Duck Duke 2completes its last deployment with the only remaining operator, the Fleet Air Arm’s 815NAS, currently finishing up its final deployment with the type. A single example of the Lynx HMA.8 is aboard the Type 23 frigate HMS Portland as it carries out a nine-month cruise which includes supporting Operation Kipion.

According to the Royal Navy’s website, the Royal Navy element of Operation Kipion is outlined as follows;

Our maritime presence is a demonstration of our continued commitment to enduring peace and stability, comprising: a command element, the United Kingdom Component Command (UKMCC), responsible for the wider region, across the Gulf and Indian Ocean, exercising command and control of the RN and RFA ships and cooperating within a 30-nation maritime force.

As well as the last Lynx HMA.8 flight on board, HMS Portland also carries a Scan Eagle Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. En-route to the Kipion operations area, HMS Portland and the Lynx were able to conduct anti-submarine training against a French nuclear submarine.

Earlier this year, HMS Portland sailed to the South Atlantic to the British island of South Georgia, a fitting visit for the Lynx given how pivotal the early model Lynx helicopters were in recovering the island and the Falklands from Argentine occupation in 1982. The vessel is now making its way north and yesterday undertook a Replenishment At Sea (RAS) operation with RFA Gold Rover off the west coast of Africa. Like the Lynx, the RFA Gold Rover is set to be withdrawn from service in the coming weeks having spent 43 years fuelling the fleet’s warships.

Barring some unforeseen requirements, HMS Portland and its Lynx are scheduled to return to the UK on March 10th whereby the helicopter and its crew will disembark for the last time. The Lynx is being replace by the newer Wildcat which although built off the previous airframe is almost a wholly new beast.

 

Wildcat assembly to be relocated from Yeovil to Italy

Italian company Leonardo Helicopters subcontracts out the assembly of the Lynx Wildcat helicopters for the Royal Navy to GKN which carries out the work at their facility in Yeovil, Somerset adjacent to RNAS Yeovilton. However, staff at the site have been told that as many as 230 jobs could be lost due to Leonardo deciding to relocate assembly to Italy.

A Leonardo spokesman was quoted in Manufacturing and Engineering Magazine (MEM) as saying that the primary reason for them relocating the work to Italy was due to “changes in their demand” making the current arrangement “no longer sustainable”. However, MEM have quoted sources claiming that Leonardo’s decision is politically motivated as opposed to reflecting a change in demand.

The Lynx Wildcat is the latest development of the earlier Westland Lynx and will become one of the most significant rotary-wing types in service with the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm over the coming decade. The engines are considerably more powerful than the previous generation Lynx HMA.8’s Gem 42-200 powerplants providing significantly improved performance when operating in hot and high conditions. The aircraft’s flight and weapon systems are also significantly improved.

Union representatives are demanding greater government action to protect GKN employees and other defence industry jobs from going overseas particularly in the wake of the Brexit vote which some claim has left the UK in a state of industrial limbo which has dissuaded investment.

 

 

 

Westland Lynx HMA.8 & Westland Sea King ASaC.7 at RNAS Culdrose Air Day 2016

A selection of images of a Lynx HMA.8 and Sea King ASaC.7 in the static display during a misty RNAS Culdrose Air Day 2016.

All photographs kindly contributed by Dave Taskis (please take time to visit his blog by clicking here).


Lynx HMA.8 ZF562/404 appears to be having something of an identity crisis. It is wearing Iron Duck nose art of HMS Iron Duke but has HMS Monmouth titles painted on the radar fairing.


Sea King ASaC.7 ZE422/192 of 849 NAS perfectly camouflaged against the misty backdrop in the static display at RNAS Cudrose. The Sea King ASaC.7 – known throughout the Navy as Baggers – are the ‘eyes in the sky’ of the Royal Navy, searching for aerial threats to the Fleet with its powerful radar or suspicious movements on the ground in support of land forces. They are the among the last examples of the ubiquitous Sea King in British service.

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RAF Griffin helicopter destroyed on Snowdonia hillside

Griffin HT.1 Royal Air Force helicopter AB412

Griffin HT.1 (RAF)

An RAF Griffin HT.1 helicopter has burst into flames after being forced to land on a Snowdonia peak with technical problems. The aircraft was operating out of RAF Valley and was carrying five crewmembers none of whom were hurt in the incident.

The emergency services were alerted to the scene by walkers who had spotted the smoke and flames sending firefighters, police and mountain rescue teams from Llanberis, Ogwen Valley and Aberglaslyn to the scene. An air ambulance and HM Coast Guard helicopter were dispatched to the scene as a precautionary measure while the air space above the scene was restricted to other aircraft.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed that the aircraft was involved in a search and rescue training exercise at the time of the incident. The Griffin HT.1s based at Valley are part of the Search and Rescue Training Unit (SARTU).

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The aircraft on fire in Snowdonia (BBC)

Army Air Corps Gazelles to soldier on through 50 years of service

Aerospatiale Westland Gazelle AH1 Helicopter British Army Air Corps

The Army Air Corps’ venerable Gazelle AH.1 is to be the subject of a life extension program that will see its out-of-service date pushed back from 2018 to 2025 which in doing so means the aircraft will have seen 50 years of service with the British armed forces. According to IHS Janes, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed that they will be publishing details of a competition for a contract to support the aircraft until the new planned out-of-service date.

The winning bidder will have their contract come in to effect in 2018 when the current contracts with Cobham Aviation Services, Airbus Helicopters, Safran helicopters and Leonardo Helicopters finish. The winning bidder will likely have to encompass as much of the work carried out by these companies as possible in an effort to streamline the support infrastructure for the ageing aircraft.

The Gazelle can trace its roots back to the Aérospatiale Alouette III light helicopter, one of the most successful helicopter designs of all time. The Gazelle was intended as its replacement and the British Army became interested in it as a replacement for the American-built Sioux helicopters in the observation and light utility roles. British Gazelles were produced by Westland helicopters and they went on to serve in a variety of roles not just with the Army but with the RAF, Royal Navy and Royal Marines as well although only the Army continues to fly it. The aircraft first entered Army service in 1974.

Since no replacement for the type has yet been suggested it is likely that when these aircraft do finally bow-out gracefully they will be replaced in their observation role by UAVs. At present there are still restrictions on UAVs flying in UK airspace but these are expected to be lifted or relaxed in the coming years allowing the Army more freedom to fly drones in UK airspace.