23 November, 2022

Merlin aircrew ready for front-line action after earning coveted Wings

Nine newly qualified Royal Navy helicopter aircrew were handed their wings at a recent parade – including two from a new training programme in ‘Crowsnest’ airborne surveillance and control. 

The pilots, observers and aircrewmen were handed the winged badges by Commodore Andrew Rose to show they have completed their training to join the navy’s frontline helicopter squadrons.
Family and friends watched with pride at a special parade held in an aircraft hangar of 824 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Culdrose.
The new aviators have all trained how to fly and operate the Merlin Mk2 maritime patrol helicopter, spending many months in the classrooms and simulators as well as the squadron’s aircraft.
Two of the observers have come through a new programme to train the next generation in airborne surveillance and control (ASaC).
They will now join 820 Naval Air Squadron, which is dedicated to protecting the navy’s aircraft carriers, to operate the helicopters adapted for ASaC with a radar fitted to their side. Flying high above the carrier strike group, these helicopters will look for airborne dangers ‘over the horizon’.
Meanwhile, the others will now join anti-submarine warfare crews either with 820, or 814 Naval Air Squadron, which operates off frigates and other ships.

Commander Chris Jones, the commanding officer of 824 Naval Air Squadron, said: “I want to congratulate each of these newly qualified aviators on their achievement in reaching this point today. Gaining their wings is a huge step in their careers in the Fleet Air Arm.
“As an ASaC observer myself, I am also immensely pleased to see the progress of our two latest ASaC observers. They are the first to complete a new training programme which includes many hours in our new ASaC Mission Trainer here at Culdrose.
“They now join an elite corps of specialist aviators, and alongside their submarine hunting colleagues, they go to the front line now with the skills needed to fight and win. Our standards here at 824 are absolute and I have some of the best instructors in any military flying unit, so to have passed the course shows an extraordinary degree of dedication and talent.” 
Several of the Royal Navy’s Merlin Mk2 helicopters have been adapted for ASaC through a programme with industry known as Crowsnest.
Alongside one of the squadron’s helicopters at the parade was an iconic World War Two Fairey Swordfish from Navy Wings. 824 Naval Air Squadron includes the Taranto Raid by Swordfish bombers in its list of battle honours.