British Army debuts Hellfire at sea
The British Army has fired a Hellfire missile from an Apache attack helicopter for the first time within a maritime environment.
In a development announced on 13 May by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), the missiles were fired against seaborne targets from HMS Ocean, the Royal Navy’s (RN’s) largest warship, and the platform on which the Army Air Corps (AAC) attack helicopter force at sea is based.
The exercise, executed near Gibraltar by the 656 Squadron from 4 Regiment AAC, proved the capability of the AH-MK1 ‘to operate and strike from the sea’.
‘In total, 550 rounds of 30mm and nine radar-guided Hellfire missiles were fired, achieving a 100% strike rate,’ an MoD statement said.
‘Today we proved that Apache can operate effectively from a Royal Navy ship, transporting munitions from the ship’s magazine, aircraft upload, launch, firing and then recovering to HMS Ocean,’ commented Maj Mike Neville, commander of the 656 Squadron onboard HMS Ocean.
The exercise followed weeks of intensive training from the squadron that will allow them to operate by both day and night.
‘HMS Ocean is the UK’s only dedicated amphibious helicopter carrier and it is fitting that we provided the platform from which the Army Air Corps have made history,’ Capt Andrew Betton, Commanding officer of HMS Ocean added.
‘656 Squadron have fully integrated themselves onboard the ship and are an integral part of HMS Ocean’s ship’s company.’
HMS Ocean and the 656 Squadron are part of the Response Force Task Group (RFTG), which is deployed on Cougar 11, a series of exercises currently in the Mediterranean and Middle East, and later to be conducted in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf.
The RFTG initiative was announced in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), and is the ‘heart of the UK’s maritime contingent capability’, ensuring that any unexpected global event is responded to immediately.
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