Above: flying above Somerset, looking out though the main cargo door at our sister ship flying along side us.
The Commando Helicopter Force, whose HQ are based at RNAS Yeovilton, held a final Farewell event to the Sea king HC4. when we visited 848 Naval Air Squadron and also took to the skies over Somerset for the last time with the legendary Sea king HC4. known as “Junglies”. They have provided amphibious transport of troops and supplies for 3 Commando Brigade into the heat of battle for so long.
Lt Cdr Mario Carretta, seen here was the pilot of our Flight “Avenger 1” he is the ex-CO of 846 NAS and has 5,000 hrs and over 20 years of flying the Sea king, from the 1st Gulf War back in 1991 to Afghanistan in 2008. So I was safe in his hands with all that experience as we went on our flight.
Above; as we flew over Glastonbury Tor, with the roofless St. Michael’s Tower.
With thanks to all at CHF and Yeovilton. Including Capt Niall Griffin MBE is the Commanding Officer of the Commando Helicopter Force, (with over 3,000 flying hours).
Capt. Griffin had a typical memory of the Junglie Sea king “The CO of 848 was undertaking a under-slinging a load for troops up in the mountains of Afghanistan and he took somewhere in the region of seven rounds through the aircraft. To be frank, it would have been easier to list the things that were still working on the aeroplane rather than those that the rounds took out, but it was that good an aeroplane that he still managed to fly it away, recover to an operating base for it to be repaired and re-join the fight.”
Niall Griffin added, “Everybody that has flown the Sea King will recognise what a forgiving and enjoyable aeroplane it is to fly and how well it has served us right across every operational sphere that defense has been involved in for several decades. It has been truly remarkable and the CHF saying goodbye to the Sea King at the end of March is a momentous occasion.” “The Merlin has a lot more downdraft, and just from a tactical point of view, the view out the front is very different due to the Merlin’s nose-up hover attitude, although the Merlin is better in a hover.”
The end of the Sea King HC4s will be in mid March, to be replaced with the Merlin helicopter. The RAF Merlin HC3s are being transferred to the Royal Navy’s Commando Helicopter Force and the first of them moved back to RNAS Yeovilton on 26th March 2015. A Merlin Life Sustainment Programme is underway, transforming the original Mk3/3As to HC4/4A standard, which will ‘navalise’ the helicopters adding manually operated folding main rotor blades,
The Merlin’s interim standard machines are known as “HC3i” (“i” for interim), the first ones arrived at RNAS Yeovilton on 14th October 2015. This allows ship embarkation to replace the Sea King HC4. The Merlin HC3is have the folding blades, deck lashing points, fast-rope fixtures, upgraded undercarriage and an I-band transponder.
The Merlin’s will do the same role, the Royal Navy’s, Fleet Air Arm’s CHF will continue to provide amphibious transport of troops and supplies for 3 Commando Brigade into the heat of battle.
Pilot Lt. Aaron Cross is the Commander of ‘A Flight’ within 848 NAS said in the briefing that “Our role right to the end is to provide tactical mobility to the Commando Force. If you were a Royal Marines Company Commander and you had your 100 or so Marines on the battle field, you could give us a call and we would move you around to where you wanted to be in the heat of battle. The tactical element means we can do that without being shot down by the enemy. It’s what we do.” “The other role we undertake is load-lifting. We have a big, meaty hook that allows us to take vehicles, supplies, ammo to the troops on the ground around the battlefield. Rather than just landing and dropping troops out the door.
Lt Cross also said. (in January 2016) As “we currently have seven airframes”, “and by the time we have our decommissioning parade we will have three Sea Kings left”
The most famous Sea king here is known as ‘The King of The Junglies’, the famous ZA298, which was shot down three times in three different conflicts. It has not been possible to take that thing out of the sky and it will take pride of place in the Fleet Air Arm Museum here at RNAS Yeovilton, along with the panels that have been repaired from the RPG that went into the side of it. The last seven aircraft where ZA295/U, ZA298/Y, ZA299/D, ZE427/K, ZF116/WP, ZF117/X, ZG821/G
All Junglies Sea Kings out now of service, Some photos were published including the Daily mail.
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