Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Fleet Air Arm SAR 60th Anniversary – the Fleet Air Arm marked six decades of lifesaving, officially since 1953.    In the three decades since records were kept, upwards of 10,000 people have been helped by the two remaining RN Search and Rescue units, HMS Gannet at Prestwick and 771 Naval Air Squadron at Culdrose.  Notable in this record were the rescues were the 1979 Fastnet Race, the 2004 Boscastle floods the foundering of the MSC NAPOLI in 2007 and the RIVERDANCE which ran aground at Blackpool during  2008.   Further back in history in 1953 some 840 souls were rescued in a single night that year during the terrible floods which struck eastern England.    Nine other Royal Naval Air Stations have been involved in Search and Rescue over the past 60 years. They were:
            Eglinton (near Londonderry)         Ford (near Littlehampton)            Brawdy (near Haverfordwest)
            Gosport                                            Lee-on-Solent (HMS DAEDALUS) Portland
            Yeovilton                                          Lossiemouth                                    Anthorn (Cumbria)
MERLIN’s First – It has been made clear that the MERLIN will be the first aircraft type to be cleared for operational use on the new Aircraft Carriers, ahead of the LIGHTNING 11 (F-35B).   This is not really news but the process of getting these vessels into service is clearly underway.
Dartmouth Visit - Officer Cadets under training at Britannia Royal Naval College had their first taste of a warship when the Type 23 Frigate SUTHERLAND sailed into the River Dart.   The SUTHERLAND was taking a break from training off the South Coast.   The SUTHERLAND returned in December 2012 from a six month deployment “East of Suez”, and following a maintenance period SUTHERLAND returned to sea in March 2013 and since then has been conducting maritime security around the UK as well as participating in various exercises.

The Future King - The Armed Forces celebrated the birth to HRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge of a son across the world.   Whist the obvious focus was the pageantry of events at Buckingham Palace and various gun salutes the Royal Navy made its own unique marking of the event.    All of HM Ships in home or international waters flew the Royal Navy Ensign from their Main Mast to mark the birth of the Prince.      The “Queen’s Frigate”, the Type 23 Frigate LANCASTER currently deployed on Atlantic Patrol Task (North) in the Caribbean the Ships’ companies added their own special congratulatory message by spelling out “Boy!” on the deck of the ship with matelots.

824 Squadron Update – this Naval Air Squadron based at Culdrose and which since June 2000 has operated eight (8) MERLIN HM.1 helicopters to meet its roles as the Operational Conversion Unit training.  Pilots, Observers and Aircrew will be the first to receive the MERLIN HM.2.   The Squadron’s role is of course related to Anti-Submarine Warfare and Search and Rescue and the aircrews go to one of the front line MERLIN Squadrons 814, 820, and 829 Naval Air Squadron which in due course will receive the MERLIN HM.2.
Fleet Ready Escort Update – the Type 23 Frigate SOMERSET took time off from this tasking to hold a “Families Day” sailing from Devonport with over 200 family members and friends embarked.    The SOMERSET continues to “generate” for an operational deployment in 2014.