RNAS Culdrose Sea Kings from the Royal Navy’s Airborne Surveillance Force are gaining their sea legs again after operating for the past two years over the deserts of Afghanistan.
857 Naval Air Squadron, who fly Sea King Mk 7 Airborne Surveillance and Control helicopters, are affectionately known as “Baggers” because of the radar being held in a large Kevlar bag on the side of the aircraft.
During their extended period on Operation Herrick duty in Afghanistan they completed in excess of 3,000 flying hours spread over 800 missions from Camp Bastion, the main operating Base for British Forces in the country.
Swapping their Multi-Terrain Combats, they are getting familiar once again with traditional Naval Blue, and a return to Maritime operations.
“Up to 70% of my people have not been at sea recently, for some the last time was during Operation Ellamy off the coast of Libya in 2011. However, team spirit, enthusiasm and professionalism have been fundamental to regaining the specialist skills required to safely and effectively integrate with the ship’s company. By the end of this embarkation we expect to have increased our preparations for any task we could face in the maritime environment”.
The “Baggers” are embarked for two weeks and in that time they will be showing many of the newbie’s what life at sea is all about.
The onboard training includes many aspects the squadron needs to operate in the Maritime environment. Pilots are getting deck current again and Observers carrying out basic radar handling of the aircraft to intercept ships and aircraft in the South West Approaches off the coast of Cornwall.
857 NAS return to Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose after their short deployment on board RFA Argus and begin planning for future operations and exercises with the Fleet later on in the year.