There was some pre-Christmas cheer in the air at RNAS Yeovilton as the Base welcomed back 120 personnel and four Sea Kings, from Commando Helicopter Force which have been deployed in the Mediterranean on the Royal Navy’s biggest exercise this year, `Cougar 12’.
The Junglie Force have been operating from the Helicopter Commando Carrier HMS Illustrious and the Royal Navy’s Flagship HMS Bulwark on exercises across the Mediterranean from Corsica in the west with the French Aircraft Carrier FS Charles de Gaulle, and to the Adriatic in the east where they worked with the Albanian Special Forces and spearheaded an Amphibious Assault exercise into Albania.
Taking the lead for the Aviation component of the Responsive Force Task Group,(RFTG) Britain’s elite seaborne reaction force, CHF have flown essential support missions alongside Army Apache Attack Helicopters and Royal Naval Merlin’s from 814 Naval Air Squadron based out of Culdrose in Cornwall.
The Sea Kings of 845 and 846 NAS added that vital lift capability to the deployment. Initially carrying Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade ashore in assault waves then under slinging artillery guns of 29 Cdo RA who were supporting the amphibious assault with deadly accuracy.
Departing from home waters in early October, CHF have clocked up some noteworthy achievements; Flying the Albanian President on a visit to the force and equally the Defence Ministers of Britain and France during a VIP day.
They also achieved a first Commando Sea King landing onto busy flight deck of FS Charles de Gaulle and carried out several long range real-time Medical emergencies from the Task Group to hospitals ashore in France and Albania.
The deployment also saw the use of CHF’s own Cdo Mobile Air Operations Teams ashore, carrying out very important pre-assault operations and preparations on to inaccessible hilltops before the airborne attacks.
Overall the aircraft have achieved over 300 flying hours during their time with the RFTG and `Cougar 12’.
Lieutenant Colonel Del Stafford MBE RM, the Commanding Officer of the Joint Helicopter Force (Contingency) said:
“The Sea Kings have been key to enabling the insertion and extraction of marines and their equipment into inaccessible areas.
“Operating from the Sea and adapting to the changing scenarios which both exercises have thrown up is what we are trained to do – this versatility underscores the Commando Helicopter Force’s reputation as the maritime helicopter force of choice.”
Safely back for the Christmas break with families and friends the service men and women of CHF have already plans for exercises in the frozen wastes of Norway and Scotland on and deployments to operations in Afghanistan.
Naval Today Staff, December 10, 2012; Image: Royal Navy