Royal Navy Wildcat pilot students train on board RFA Argus

Photo: Royal Navy/Lee Howard

Future fliers and engineers of the Royal Navy’s Wildcat helicopters spent three weeks off the Portuguese coast recently, waging an all-out imaginary war.

With aviation training ship RFA Argus as their home, the pilots and observers were charged with protecting the 28,000-tonne vessel from all threats – and thus earn their wings with 825 Naval Air Squadron.

By the time the student aircrew joined Argus they’d completed basic flying training in Lincolnshire, then basic helicopter flight training for pilots in Shropshire and observer training at Culdrose, before learning how to fly and operate the Wildcat and its panoply of weapons and sensors at RNAS Yeovilton.

For the final assessment – the culmination of upwards of four years of training – tutors took four Wildcats, five pairs of students several dozen ground crew – many of them fresh out of training at HMS Sultan – to sea.

There they faced a complex series of realistic scenarios in open waters about 100 miles off Portugal… or the hostile nation of Torpluga as it became for the three weeks of training.

The detachment’s air engineer officer Lieutenant Dan Boardman said experienced or rookie, his team had risen to the challenge of maintaining four helicopters around the clock for three weeks.

“This embarkation has been a great training opportunity for the whole squadron,” he said. “We flew more than 160 hours in just under three weeks with 100 per cent availability of the aircraft, I am extremely proud to have been the detachment air engineer officer- it’s been a real highlight of my career so far.”

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