More than 40 tonnes of drugs, 170 tonnes of home-made bombs and 150 insurgents have been seized thanks to the Royal UK Navy’s eyes in the skies of Afghanistan.
In five years of unbroken commitment to the Allied cause on the ground, Sea Kings of the Airborne Surveillance and Control force – normally based at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall – have played a key role in locating insurgents’ arms caches, tracking drugs shipments and following the movements of insurgents.
The helicopters – dubbed ‘cloudwalkers’ by Afghans – were originally designed to provide Royal Navy task groups with early warning of air attack.
But their powerful radar has proved to be just as potent over land, with aircrew able to follow movements on the ground – directing Allied troops and security forces to make arrests and seizures.
Since arriving at Camp Bastion five years ago last month, the veteran helicopters have completed 2,000 sorties and 9,000 hours – the equivalent of 375 days – flying over Afghanistan.
Commander Andrew Rose, the Royal Navy’s Maritime Sea King Force Commander, said his personnel could look back on the milestone “with immense professional pride and a personal sense of a job well done.”
He continued: “The men and women of the Sea King Force have delivered on operations in the unforgiving environment of Helmand and have conducted themselves in the finest traditions of the Fleet Air Arm.
“There were those who thought that a maritime force would be unable to cope with the rigours of land operations.
“If I compare my first visit to Camp Bastion in 2009 to May this year, we’ve come a long way – and the reputation of the force has grown across the Coalition.”
Press Release, June 05, 2014; Image: UK Navy