The Fleet Air Arm is undergoing a vast programme of transition as all front line aircraft are replaced over the coming years.
The Lynx Wildcat Maritime Force (LWMF) at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton is already deep into this transition, successfully introducing the Wildcat Helicopter Maritime Attack (HMA) Mk2 into service, and from 31 March 2017 when the Lynx Mk8 goes out of service, will become the Maritime Wildcat Force.
On 1 August 2014 LWMF, consisting of 815 Naval Air Squadron (NAS), 702 NAS and 700W NAS will become 2 front line squadrons, similar in size but each with a unique focus.
815 NAS will become the sole Lynx Squadron, and a new Wildcat Squadron, 825 NAS will form with the unification of 702 NAS and 700W NAS.
Lynx aircraft from 815 NAS will continue to operate, supporting the front line to deliver Flights and remain at Very High Readiness for Maritime Counter Terrorism (MCT) until the aircraft goes out of service on 31 March 2017. The Squadron will start its conversion from Lynx to Wildcat during the latter part of 2015. Once fully converted to Wildcat, 815 will consist of 12 single-manned Flights at readiness for deployed operations worldwide and 2 double-manned MCT Flights at very high readiness in the UK.
The commissioning of 825 NAS in September 2014 will be the merger of 702 NAS and 700W NAS and will operate the first 4 Wildcat Flights to convert and deploy to sea on either a Type 45 Destroyer or Type 23 Frigate. It will deliver training to Lynx qualified and new aircrew on the Wildcat along with Air Engineers and will be responsible for continuing Wildcat Tactical Development, identifying and understanding the significant potential of this very capable new aircraft.
Captain Kevin Fleming, Commanding Officer of LWMF said: “These are exciting times for the Lynx Wildcat Maritime Force, developing the brand new Wildcat whilst delivering the Lynx to the Front Line and not without its challenges. The Force has worked extremely hard to ensure that transition from Lynx to Wildcat is managed smoothly whilst maintaining support to Operations as routine business.”
Captain Fleming added, “Over the past 35 years or so we and our predecessors have delivered huge operational success in the Lynx worldwide; I am certain with our continued positive engagement and professional focus, we will put the Maritime Wildcat Force firmly on track to delivering similar and even greater operational achievements for very many years to come.”
Press Release, May 27, 2014; Image: Royal Navy