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l A Harrier GR9 launches from HMS Ark Royal

Pictures: LA(Phot) Gregg Macready except where stated

HARRIERS on board HMS Ark Royal.

l Harriers over Ark Royal

Just like old times...

Very old times, as it happens, because by our estimation it is several years since Ark has had the

of Naval Harrier carrier – more recently she has been (ably) fulfilling the role of commando assault ship.

But after last year’s £12m mini refit in Portsmouth,

is back on familiar territory.


l Another view of Ark RASing with RFA Wave Knight while carrying out flying operations

Picture: LA(Phot) Luis Holden

And it has been a while since these Harriers have tasted the tang of sea breezes. After five years in the dust and sands of Afghanistan providing close air support to coalition troops, the Harrier GR9A aircraft of Naval Strike Wing (NSW) are once again back at sea, experiencing the joys of high- tempo carrier-borne operations. “This is what we are all about,” said the Commanding Officer Naval Strike Wing, Cdr Dave ‘Tinsel’ Lindsay. Paramount in the exercise was the integration of ship and air wing into one team.

And after only a few days on board, NSW were

and night missions to prove the achievement of maximum readiness.

“Being back at sea is great,” said pilot Lt Nick Mattock. “Ark Royal has really welcomed us and we all feel part of the ship’s company.”

flying day role

Just like

how far we have all come in such a short time. “It is largely down to the amount of effort that the Ark has put into preparing for our embarkation.”

have settled into their familiar maritime role with relative ease. “We are here to


Aided by the latest technology from the ship’s intelligence teams, the iconic

provide the punch and deliver the knock- out blow,” said Cdr Lindsay. “The Harrier is proving

providing that from the sea as it did in Afghanistan. “All of us in the Strike Wing are pleased – and very excited – to be part of Ark Royal’s team. “We have had a typically warm

welcome and look forward to the coming weeks and the opportunity to develop carrier strike in partnership with one of the most famous ships in the world.” But the warship’s rendezvous with the Harriers was not the only show in town. Also on board Ark in the North Sea for ‘safe to operate’


were Merlins from the Flying Tigers of 814 NAS and Lynx of 815 NAS.

And just to make sure everyone

Harriers have been put to use in a variety of missions, including air-to-air combat, close air support precision strike sorties on land, reconnaissance flights and live weapon runs. Cdr Lindsay said: “Naval Strike

Wing’s underlying philosophy is that you train like you fight, and this is perfectly in keeping with Ark’s motto ‘zeal does not rest’. “I am very pleased to see just

l Air engineers watch as a Harrier lands

The unique capabilities of the

was on their toes, elements of Illustrious’ ship’s company (their carrier is in refit on Rosyth) were sharing their expertise with their Ark colleagues, while teams from Flag Officer Sea Training and Fleet HQ were observing and assessing the carrier’s performance. The ship carried out taxing

that it is just as capable of

evolutions, such as a replenishment at sea in the Moray Firth area with RFA Wave Knight while simultaneously launching Harriers and operating Merlin helicopters. “Although our basic training has been well supported by a host of squadrons operating from shore

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