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NAVY NEWS, MARCH 2010 7
THERE are 168 hours in every week.
It’s about 80 miles from Kandahar to Helmand – A bullet had sliced through the tail rotor control Paying tribute to the dedication of his men and
And for 100 of those hours you will fi nd the men
entering the latter province on missions is known cable, leaving just one strand in place; had it women during the past two years’ operations in
and women of the Commando Helicopter Force in
by aircrew as ‘crossing the wire’. snapped, the helicopter would have most likely Afghanistan, CHF’s Commanding Offi cer Capt
the skies of Afghanistan.
With good reason. The veteran aircraft have spun out of control. Jon Pentreath said they had played a crucial role,
The Jungly fl iers have passed two important
often come under fi re from the Taleban, leaving As Lt Cdr Simmonite observed – and he’s especially in support of operations surrounding
milestones in the skies of that troubled land:
the RN engineers of Fleet Forward Support (Air) not the fi rst to do so in the helicopter’s 41-year last summer’s elections.
they’ve notched up more than 10,000 fl ying hours
with challenging repair jobs. operational history: “The Sea King proved its “In the fi erce conditions of Afghanistan, my
in support of Allied troops on the ground and
Among them Lt Cdr Gavin Simmonite’s Sea resilience yet again in battle.” aircrew and ground crews continue to rise to the
commemorated their second anniversary at
King... Air and ground crew have had to adapt to to many challenges,” he said.m
Kandahar.
We reported the pilot’s award of the DFC conditions in Afghanistan – weather, terrain, n, “The fl ying tasks are diverse and
Indeed by the time you read this, the hours
for nursing his damaged helicopter home in enemy action. challenging, calling for tactical, low-level c
fl own has passed through the 10,500 barrier
our October 2009 edition. In July, temperatures nudge 50˚C fl ight by day and night in all weather.”
with the Sea King Mk4s – modifi ed with
The citation for the decoration only (122˚F) which forces engineers to work ■ IN preparation for the Afghan mission,
improved engines, special rotor blades for
tersely describes the dangers faced by at fi rst or last light or during the hours of 845 NAS decamped to Kenya where
Afghanistan’s challenging environment,
CHF aircrew and their passengers. darkness. environmental conditions – extremes
and extra defences/counter-measures –
The offi cer was delivering an “The aircraft work a lot of hours of temperature and high altitude – and
averaging some 100 hours each week.
under-slung load to a drop zone e and ara e pushed to their limits,” said austere accommodation/facilities replicate
Although the CHF burden in Afghanistan
when his Sea King was subjected to o 846 NAS avionics expert CPO Paul 8 Helmand to some degree.
is currently borne by the Sea Kings of 845 and
sustained and accurate Taleban small Worton. “They come back covered in In the middle of Exercise Grand Prix early in
846 Naval Air Squadrons, it was shared for eight
arms fi re. Bullets pierced the aircraft’s dust, so it does take its toll. 2009, the Jungly detachment was visited by the
months by the Lynx of 847 NAS during the winter
skin and ricocheted around the cabin. “All the aircraft struggle in the heat, but Naval Flying Standards team – think FOST for the
of 2008-09.
Door gunner NA Thomas Saunders the Sea Kings hold up. Our people like it, Fleet Air Arm.
Home to most of the CHF force – we can’t tell
returned fi re and kept the enemy pinned it’s a good and reliable airframe that is The inspectors visit all naval aviation units to
you the precise numbers of men or machines for
down long enough for the aircrew to proven to be able to do its job.” ensure that exacting standards are upheld in the
security reasons – is Kandahar Air Base, hub of
manoeuvre the Sea King out of danger and The heat of high summer also means the air and on the ground.
Allied air operations in southern Afghanistan, with
eventually return to base. The junior rate was Sea Kings operate mainly by night, which And evidently they were in 845, for the Yeovilton-
elements deployed at the British HQ in Helmand,
subsequently rewarded by CHF for his skill and may be cooler and better for lift, but brings based squadron earned the 2009 Breitling Trophy
Camp Bastion.
bravery. additional dangers for the aircrew. for professionalism and excellence.
It was only on the ground, and after a Fliers have come to know Afghanistan’s 845’s Commanding Offi cer Lt Col Steve Hussey
thorough inspection of the damage, moonless nights as ‘red illumination’. “It’s pitch- said the award represented recognition not just
that the crew realised how black with no ambient lighting and the dust on for his fl iers, but also for engineers, logistics and
close they had come to landing sites can make things even worse,” support staff – in short the whole 845 team.
crashing. explained aircrewman Cpl Lee Hegerty. “What is also impressive is the achievement of
“It’s tough but the pilots are all given that the squadron is heavily committed
spot-on – I would say they are to operations in Afghanistan, but was able to
the best-trained pilots in deliver such a superb performance in Kenya,” he
the military. It all comes added.
together when we are Picture: Cpl S Dove, AGC
out on sorties.”
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