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l Ark Royal replenishes from fast Fleet tanker RFA Wave

Knight while launching Harrier aircraft and flying Merlins

Picture: LA(Phot) Luis Holden


old times...

bases, it’s fantastic to see the Naval Strike Wing, 814 and 815 Naval Air Squadrons embarked with us now to finish the final phases of our operational sea training,” said Cdr Al ‘Rocky’ Salmon, Ark’s Commander Air. One particular area of expertise which needed to be revisited by the Strike Wing Harriers was maritime night-flying – the first time the Naval element of the Joint Force Harrier has been able to practise such skills in two years.

sorties at dusk and after dark in order to reacquaint themselves with the particularly challenging task of launching and recovering their aircraft using the relatively cramped floating airfield provided by the Invincible-class ships. The training programme

involved six flights, working up from barely dusk to full night-time flying.

simulated attacks on a wide variety of targets, providing extra training for the fighter controllers in the carrier’s operations room.

l Harriers line up for launch

Picture: LA(Phot) Luis Holden

Once in the air the pilots then The jet pilots flew enough

exercises is undoubtedly getting the aircraft back on to the deck. Landing a jet on a moving landing strip, at night, without the use of night-vision goggles takes an immense level of skill and concentration. Six GR9s, the most advanced

variant of the bomber version of the Harrier, from the Cottesmore- based Strike Wing were being used for the training.

aside from Fleet Air Arm pilots, there’s one Royal Marine, a US Marine Corps major and the senior pilot is an RAF squadron leader. With over 1,000 hours flying

Their crew are an eclectic bunch; The most difficult part of such

a variety of fixed-wing aircraft, Lt Cdr Paul Tremelling, a senior pilot from Naval Strike Wing, said: “Night flying from a ship is pretty much the pinnacle of military aviation.

“Landing a single-seated, fixed- wing aircraft on the deck of an aircraft

most difficult thing you can do as a pilot.”

The night flying sorties are carrier, at night, is the

an essential part of Ark’s ability to operate in the role of strike carrier. Having already been embarked

for two weeks as Navy News went to press, NSW were planning to qualify at least two more pilots for night flying over the subsequent week’s training serials. Once ‘safe to operate’ is done Ark plunges straight into the latest Joint Warrior exercise off Scotland. Ark’s CO, Capt John Clink said: “Whilst most of the attention in achieving this important milestone focuses on the skill of the pilot, there is no doubt that it takes teamwork and professionalism from all, and I am very proud of what has been achieved.” Ark is now scheduled to lead the RN’s key deployment of the year, Auriga, to the USA later this spring, taking the NSW with her. The skills being practised and gained in Ark today will help ensure a smooth transition to the UK’s future aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

l An aircrewman checks a Merlin from 814 NAS before taking off

l A Harrier slows to a hover alongside Ark Royal before landing

l A Harrier launches from the rain-soaked flight deck

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