Royal Navy squadrons continue to make significant contribution to OP Herrick
Since the beginning of the conflict in Afghanistan, the Royal Navy has played a significant role in operations.
Today there are three Naval Air Squadrons, two Commando Units and a great number of support personnel based at Camp Bastion.
The Sea King Mk 4’s from 845 and 846 Naval Air Squadrons (NAS) have been heavily involved since late 2007 and have made night flying their niche.
They are currently conducting more night flying than all the other detachments combined.
Additionally, the Sea King Mk 7 Airborne Surveillance and Control helicopter (SKASaC) from 854 Naval Air Squadron has provided an essential intelligence gathering capability and the Lynx Mk 9A of 847 Naval Air Squadron is constantly active in the Escort and Surveillance roles.
Commando Helicopter Force Sea King Mk 4 crews operating out of Camp Bastion have carved a niche for themselves amongst SH crews, operating almost exclusively at night.
When there is no moon over the low contrast terrain in Afghanistan, the night can be incredibly dark; so much so that it makes flying, even with Night Vision Goggles, potentially extremely hazardous.
The Sea King Mk 4 crews have developed specific techniques to be able to operate as a matter of course in this environment. This capability provides an essential role, without which night tasking would be reduced significantly.
The SKASaC is equipped with radar, incorporating a multi-environment sensor. Originally designed to be the ‘Eyes of the Fleet’ at sea, the radar has both land and air surveillance utility, with crews being trained to operate in all environments.
As Afghanistan is land locked and there is no Air to Air threat, the Ground Movement Target Indication (GMTI) mode of the radar that has come into its own.
The role is to monitor large areas of the operational areas to enable identification of the ‘presence of the abnormal’.
The wide area surveillance ability is mostly used to cover the Regional Command (South West) Area of Operations providing real time observation of suspicious activity that may directly affect coalition ground forces.
847 NAS was previously involved in Op Herrick with the Lynx Mk 7. The Mk 7’s engines were, however, only capable of operating in the colder months and during the nights in the hotter temperatures of the Afghan summer.
With this in mind the Squadron recently converted to the Lynx Mk 9A which has new engines that provide an all year round capability with little degradation in performance.
Along with the performance upgrade, the 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Gun has been replaced with the 0.5 inch M3M, which has a longer range, improved accuracy and multi-role ammunition.
This weapon, combined with the MX-15 surveillance camera system, has provided a significantly enhanced capability.
The Lynx Mk 9A is a true multi-role helicopter conducting Support Helicopter (SH) escort; convoy overwatch; reconnaissance for ground forces and Close Air Support.
The three Naval Air Squadrons total 127 personnel, amounting to 21% of the Helicopter Force at Camp Bastion.
They serve alongside many other members of the Naval Service who fulfil numerous command and support roles within the UK’s Joint Aviation Group.
The recent addition of 3 Commando Brigade has provided a further boost to the Royal Navy’s numbers in theatre, all helping to provide much needed stability to the area.
As long as there is a need for specialist and varied aviation assets in theatre, there will always be at least one Naval Air Squadron involved.
Source: Fleet Air Arm / Royal Navy
More from Defence Helicopter
Uruguay's African peacekeepers to receive new support helicopter
The donation of a utility helicopter by the UA will increase the Uruguayan peacekeeping deployment’s air support capabilities in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Turkiye's Gokbey helicopter marks first indigenous engined flight
On April 22, 2023, Turkish Aerospace’s T-625 GOKBEY general-purpose helicopter conducted a test flight with an indigenous TEI-TS1400 engine for the first time.
Canada to upgrade AW101 rescue helicopters in-country under Leonardo-IMP deal
Canada's IMP Aerospace will carry out upgrades on 13 of the 16 AW101 aircraft covered by the CMLU programme under a sub-contract from Leonardo Helicopters UK.
US Coast Guard to upgrade radars for MH-60 and MH-65 helicopter fleets
New Honeywell IntuVue RDR-7000 weather radars will be installed on USCG MH-60 and MH-65 helicopters.