16 NAVY NEWS, DECEMBER 2011
Wildcat gets its sea legs
THIS is a sight to warm the cockles of any Naval aviator’s heart: the fi rst landing of the Fleet Air Arm’s next-generation helicopter on a ship at sea. Noon precisely in Lyme Bay on Monday November 7 2011 and a Wildcat touches down on the vast fl ight deck of RFA Argus.
The helicopter is the 21st Century replacement for the Lynx which has served the Navy so well since the 1970s.
Lynx design, incorporating them in an entirely new airframe, added cutting-edge enhancements – new sensors, avionics and weapons – to give the Navy a souped-up, nimble, helicopter with added punch well into the middle of the century. A team from AgustaWestland, the Yeovil fi rm which
builds the Lynx, Wildcat experts from the Aircraft Test and Evaluation Centre at Boscombe Down, plus RN air engineers and technicians joined Argus for the trials.
It fell to Lt Cdrs Robert Dowdell and Lee Evans to make the historic fl ight – assisted (and observed – hence this evocative black and white photograph from Lt Ed Barham) by a Lynx Mk8 of 815 Naval Air Squadron, which will get its hands on Wildcat in a little over two years’ time. “This marks a signifi cant milestone in the life of
Wildcat,” said Lt Cdr Rob Taylor, Commanding Offi cer of 700W Naval Air Squadron – the trials unit set up at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset specifi cally to
takes the best bits of the
The landing on Argus heralded four weeks of ‘operating limit trials’ for the Wildcat, which will lay the foundations for fl ying the new helicopter when it enters front-line service. Wildcat
bring the new aircraft into service. “The deck landing’s the fi rst in a series of trials which will see Wildcat cleared to operate on all classes of Royal Navy and RFA ships in all theatres of the world.” Wildcat is bristling with new sensors and kit –
aircraft will have an even higher rate of availability than the already-reliable Lynx. The fi rst of 28 Fleet Air Arm Wildcats arrives at
The cockpit’s layout has been heavily infl uenced by input from the pilots and observers to allow them to fi nd, collate and report contacts on sea or land rapidly. At the same time, engineers should fi nd the Wildcat easier to maintain – which means the
improved radar, improved communications suite, more powerful engines, more fi repower, and a ‘glass’ cockpit with four large display screens replacing the older dials and screens.
Yeovilton, home of the Navy’s entire Lynx force, in January 2013, when the team at 700W will determine how aircrews will operate the helicopter on deployment. At the same time, a training course will be designed ahead of the fi rst Wildcat crews converting from the existing Lynx joining 702 NAS, the Lynx operational training unit, in January 2014. From there the qualifi ed fl iers will move to the front-line Lynx squadron, 815, which provides frigates, destroyers and the Navy’s ice patrol ships with a dedicated Flight – helicopter plus air and ground crew – for their global deployments. The fi rst Wildcat Flight is earmarked to deploy in
An Indian sailor checks the papers of a suspect aboard the floating repair shop at the height of exercises involving the two nations off the coast of Goa.
HELLO, yes, I’ve got someone here on the bridge of RFA Diligence with headlamps for eyes and an oversized helmet... I think they’re a bit suspicious...
The annual Konkan exercise, run since 2004 and occasionally staged in UK waters, returned to the coast for which it is named with Diligence, hunter-killer submarine HMS Turbulent and the UK Maritime Battle Staff from Whale Island in Portsmouth providing the British con- tingent…
…and the frigate INS Betwa, a diesel boat INS Shankush, Sea King helicopters and Il-38 maritime patrol aircraft plus staff offi cers were the Indians’ principal players.
With the actors in place, the curtain was raised on Konkan against the backdrop of Goa’s stunning beaches and lush landscape, with exercises, discussions and planning before the drama moved out to sea for the main act and dénoument.
The main act was two days of ‘scripted serials’ – ie participants knew what was going to happen and when.
Diligence and Betwa put to sea demonstrating their damage control and fi refi ghting abilities, while the two submarines stalked their ‘prey’,
tracking their movements and
working up their respective crews. Next up, boarding operations training
with Diligence acting as a smuggler and Betwa – a 4,500-tonne anti-submarine frigate based on a British stretched Leander-class – in pursuit.
She dispatched a Sea King and two fully-armed boarding teams to bring the RFA to heel; the latter stormed Diligence – which is chiefl y performing the role of a submarine support ship for T-boats sent to this part of the world – and conducted a thorough search. “The team came on to the ship quickly and
effi ciently and although they were courteous, we were in no doubt of their capability,” said Capt Charles Simmonds RFA, Diligence’s Commanding Offi cer. “We’ve practised boarding operations before and the team from Betwa impressed with their professional and thorough approach. It was a pleasure working with them.” While the skimmers were wrapped up in
board and search, the boats were playing their favourite game of cat and mouse as Turbulent went a-hunting. Turbs is big, powerful and can patrol pretty much indefi nitely thanks to her nuclear power, while the Shankush has to ‘snort’ to recharge her batteries regularly. She is, however, small, agile
Kan-do attitude and very, very quiet.
So game on, then, as the hunter-killer went off hunting (but thankfully not killing). There are still quite a few diesel boat veterans in the Silent Service 17 years after the last, Unicorn, paid off – among them Turbulent’s CO Cdr Ryan Ramsey.
He was assisted in the chase by an Indian staff offi cer who joined the Trafalgar-class submarine for the duration of the exercise. And lest it be thought Turbs had it all her own way, the Indians sent aloft their Il-38 aircraft bristling with radar, sonar buoys and magnetic anomaly detectors in a bid to fi nd 280ft and 5,200 tonnes of sleek black messenger of death lurking some 150 miles off the Goan coast. “Konkan has been one of the highlights of the deployment,” said Cdr Ramsey. “The formidable Indian Navy forces that participated allowed us to hone our skills in a
, sonar buoys
“The formidable Indian Navy for most demanding environment.”
With the ‘scripted’ part of Konkan done, the free play began – the participants were given general objectives as Diligence needed escorting into a port while a rogue state and its submarine, played by the Shankush, tried to sink it.
The Maritime Battle Staff shared their expertise with the Indians on involving a British nuclear boat in a co-ordinate submarine hunt, sending Turbulent ahead to scour the ocean for the Shankush while on the surface the Betwa did the same and the Il-38 and Sea Kings looked down from Goan skies.
With the shield in place, the diesel boat never had a look in.
shield in place, the diesel boat
And that was Konkan 11. It left participants on both sides very pleased with the outcome – although the kit of the respective navies differ, they have similar traditions and, said Cdr Mark ‘H’ Honnoraty, head of the Battle
contingent, “numerous close similarities. On many occasions, we’ve been impressed by their tactical knowledge and ability.”
For Cdr Ramsey, Konkan was “a fantastic opportunity on every level.
“Alongside the obvious training benefi ts from such an exercise it was the strengthening of ties between the two nations and their Navies that was obviously appreciated. “In times where a common and menacing piracy and security threat exists in the Indian Ocean the partnership is welcome. Two nations’ forces rapidly developed into one force – swift, decisive, resolute.”
And for the Indians? A parting message from Capt Bahl, Betwa’s Commanding Offi cer, to his British comrades will suffi ce:
“Thank you all for being part of this exercise and making it a roaring success. We all look forward to working with you again. Happy hunting.”
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