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HMS Albion plays tag

28th April 2011 - 18:16 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


HMS Albion demonstrates her versatility by operating a Tailored Air Group (TAG) of two Sea King Mk4 helicopters together with two Lynx Mk7s.

It's almost a month since the lead ships from the Response Force Task Group (RFTG) left the UK for the Cougar 11 deployment. Whilst HMS Albion has a twin spot flight deck, she has no hanger. Consequently, the 18,500 tonne assault ship was never intended to operate her own air group - and certainly not for an extended period of time.

However this hasn't stopped the aircrew of 847 and 845 Naval Air Squadrons calling the Fleet Flagship home. Crews from both Yeovilton based squadrons, which are part of the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF), embarked prior to the ship leaving the UK and have provided a sizeable and potent Tailored Air Group for important amphibious exercises off Cyprus.

All four helicopters were in operation over the territorial waters belonging to UK Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus for Wader training, which is a series of amphibious training exercises, ranging from basic embarkation and disembarkation drills all the way up to simulated raids on a coastal target and live fire training.

CHF Sea King Mk 4 helicopters help to move Royal Marines and their equipment from ship to shore and around the battlefield, while CHF Lynx Mk 7 helicopters provide armed reconnaissance and control fire support.

At times during the exercise, a fifth helicopter - a Lynx Mk8 from HMS Sutherland - also operated from HMS Albion, which together with her own TAG, saw her operating 3 different marks and models.

Last year HMS Albion conducted 389 deck landings during her two month deployment on Exercise Auriga. In comparison, the first two weeks of Cougar 11 have already seen 180 deck landings.

Lieutenant Andy Haywood Royal Navy is HMS Albion's Aviation Officer. From his position in the Flight Control Centre overlooking the flight deck, his job is to control all helicopter movements on and off the flight deck.

He said: "A sustained helicopter deployment of this kind hasn't been attempted before due to the limited aviation support facilities onboard the HMS Albion, but the ship and the squadrons have worked hard to sustain a busy flying programme".

Captain James Morley, HMS Albion's Commanding Officer, added: "The tailored air group has integrated quickly into the ship, and adds an important element of capability to what is already one of the most versatile units in the armed forces inventory - and particularly well-suited to the potential range of challenges that we now face in North Africa and the Middle East."

HMS Albion is designed as a floating headquarters for amphibious operations. With a huge internal floodable dock for landing craft, a large flight deck for helicopters and plenty of accommodation for Royal Marines and their vehicles and equipment, she can deliver everything from a fighting force to sustained humanitarian relief or evacuating civilians from danger. Uniquely, she also has bespoke facilities to act as a secure, floating headquarters able to command and control land, sea and air operations. In an age of austerity she offers innovation and affordability, as well as a practical and politically uncomplicated way to meet the likely challenges arising from environmental and population change, failing states or geo-political insecurity.

Source: UK MOD

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