The Royal Navy has reestablished the 744 Naval Air Squadron which will be responsible for introducing the Navy’s Crowsnest Merlin radar over the next 18 months.
The Fleet Air Arm Squadron will also be responsible for the RAF’s upgraded Chinook Mk5s and Mk6s.
Pooling 15 of the best aircrew and aviation engineers from the three services, the new unit – based at Boscombe Down on Salisbury Plain – formally stood up at a ceremony attended by the head of naval aviation, Rear Admiral Keith Blount.
For 62 years the squadron has been hibernating, disbanded at RAF St Mawgan in Cornwall at the end of October 1956 where it had spent two years helping to develop anti-submarine warfare tactics.
Before that it pioneered helicopter search and rescue duties with Dragonflies between 1952 and 1954, trained aircrew in anti-submarine warfare at RNAS Eglinton in Northern Ireland, provided fliers for wartime Merchant Aircraft Carriers (tankers/cargo ships which doubled up as small carriers on convoy duties), and fed the front-line Fleet Air Arm with trained personnel, first out of Lee-on-the-Solent, then while based in Canada.
It’s the squadron’s later role in testing, evaluation and development which was prompted its 21st Century rebirth under the motto ‘nemo solus satis sapit’ – no one individual knows enough on their own.
The re-formed squadron’s first commanding officer Commander Jonathan Bird said 744 Squadron “brings together the operational experience from the majority of defence’s front-line aircraft types and weaponry, to ensure that new aircraft, weapons and upgrades to existing platforms are safe and as fit for purpose as possible.
“It is an even bigger privilege to be at the helm when the squadron re-commissions – exactly 62 years to the day that the previous commanding officer flew his final squadron sortie before the unit was disbanded at RAF St Mawgan.”