A Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker has proven to be the the ship of choice when it comes to multi-cab helicopter flight operations.
Currently deployed to the Arabian Gulf as the Kipion Ready Tanker, RFA Fort Victoria has been operating with its own Squadron but also those of other squadrons and nations.
849 Sea King Airborne Surveillance and Control (SKASaC) Squadron has been embarked on Fort Victoria since it deployed in May 2015 with the current squadron – Okinawa Flight – having achieved the first maritime Night Vision Device qualification for the SKASaC Force.
They have also achieved multi-spot operations, providing situational awareness and fighter control support to the French carrier, Charles De Gaulle.
849 Squadron senior pilot, Lieutenant Commander Simon Wood, said: “The support Fort Victoria has given us is exceptional. The ability to be in the best position to provide the wide area maritime picture to the Charles De Gaulle and her battle group has paid dividends.”
“Training of this quality is very hard to come by and the experience of working with a multinational force of ships, helicopters and jets has enabled Okinawa Flight to hone their skills. During the period the ship has acted like a ‘mini carrier’ for us and is rapidly becoming a home from home.”
A Merlin from Oman based 820 Squadron is also a regular visitor to Fort Victoria carrying out deck landing training during operations. The United Arab Emirates has also been making use of Fort Victoria with two helicopters, a Chinook and an Apache, landing on the vessel.
Captain Kevin Rimell, Commanding Officer of Barnsley affiliated RFA Fort Victoria said: “The last few weeks have reinforced the versatility of Fort Victoria. Maritime aviation is an essential element of our business and 849 Squadron being fully integrated has been key to our success. The opportunity to extend our facilities to other nationalities has been the icing on the cake.”