First Sea Lord honours Sea King crews for Afghanistan deployment
The Sea King crews from 854 Naval Air Squadron were recently presented with their Afghanistan Operational Service Medals by Head of the Royal Navy, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope.
The medals were presented at a ceremony at the squadron's base at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall.
854 Squadron returned recently from Afghanistan where they worked in the most demanding of conditions, with temperatures often exceeding 45 degrees, and rarely dipping below 35, and where dust and sand storms were a common feature.
Commander Matt Avison, the Commander of the Royal Navy's Sea King Force, speaking at the ceremony, said: "The threat from enemy forces was an ever-present concern; the relentless influx of dead and injured from the battlegrounds of Helmand to the hospital at Bastion served as a constant reminder of the serious nature of this campaign."
Operating from Camp Bastion in Helmand province throughout the summer of 2009, the squadron provided surveillance of the battlespace, detection and interdiction of enemy supply routes, and provided overwatch of UK resupply patrols and assisted the counter-IED (improvised explosive device) effort.
Its operations resulted in the detention of enemy combatants, the destruction of weapons and narcotics, and the recovery of enemy money and equipment.
854 Squadron also gathered vital intelligence. The sophisticated radar on board the squadron's Sea King helicopters has been exceeding all expectations and by using the data link capability the detailed radar information can be transmitted to ground forces when required.
This information is then used to provide targeting information for the Army and for guidance of airborne weapon delivery systems, resulting in deadly and successful attacks against the Taliban.
In his address to the squadron, Admiral Stanhope said: "The eye-in-the-sky capability of the Mark 7 Sea King was greatly enhanced with the fitting of the Searchwater 2000 radar a few years back, able to detect, track and intercept contacts over land or sea.
"What these helicopters can do is see a long way, a very long way, in great detail, and then pass that information on, quickly and accurately. Their ability to do that is better-developed than anyone else's, and is the best in the world."
854 Squadron will be returning to Afghanistan early in 2010 to continue operations there and in the meantime all members of the squadron are concentrating on more training for that task.
In addition, they will be maintaining their maritime capabilities, operating from ships in the more traditional roles of surveillance of the seas, defending naval ships, detecting pirates, tracking drug smugglers or working with the Royal Marines on amphibious operations.
Sea King squadrons from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose will be deploying to Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. The airframes are well-tried and reliable and much loved by the aircrews; that combined with the hugely successful and ever more capable radar and computer equipment on board makes the airborne surveillance and control contribution from 854 Squadron, 857 Squadron, and the parent squadron 849, a vital and respected force in the war against terrorism.
By UK Ministry of Defence
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