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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Royal Navy Hosts European Helos at Yeovilton Air Day

By Ian Frain

German Navy Marinefliegergeschwader 3 ‘Graf Zeppelin’ AgustaWestland Lynx Mk 88.

In June, the UK was gripped by the start of heavy rainfall that would continue until the middle of July. The bad weather and preparation for supporting the London Olympics did not deter the personnel of RNAS (Royal Naval Air Station) Yeovilton from hosting another successful air day in the third weekend of June. RNAS Yeovilton (HMS Heron) had been the home of the famous Sea Harrier until its retirement in 2004 but now home to remaining squadron of AgustaWestland Lynx Mk8 and the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) squadrons. 

This air show commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Falklands Conflict. The Fleet Air Arm museum also based at Yeovilton brought out a Westland Wessex Mk V, Westland Wasp and Antarctic Patrol Westland Lynx (though the Ice Patrol ship, HMS Endurance was equipped with Wasp at the time not Lynx) and captured Argentinian AB205.

The flying display on the rotary wing side was carried out by a four ship formation of Lynx Mk8, then later on by the Royal Navy Black Cats display team consisting of a pair of Lynx putting themselves through several maneuvers. The Royal Navy’s next generation AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat made its second public flying appearance. The Army Air Corps WAH-64D Longbow Apache performed its solo routine while at the very end of the day, the CHF squadrons performed with a mock assault complete with pyrotechnics.

Royal Navy Black Cats AgustaWestland Lynx HM.8 pair doing a crossing maneuver during the air show.
On the static display, the USAFE’s only vertical lift element which is the 56th RQS (Rescue Squadron) based at RAF Lakenheath as part of the 48th Fighter Wing, brought along one of their HH-60G Pave Hawk. The pilots and PJs (Pararescue Jumper specialists) demonstrated the different tools available for combat search and rescue/personnel recovery techniques. The German Navy (Marinesflieger) had the Batman nemesis “The Riddler” Sea Lynx Mk 88A from the famous Graf Zeppelin squadron based at Nordholz. All the Fleet Air Arm’s aircraft were on display either outside or in the hangars from the CHF Sea King Commando Mk4 to the Sea King ASAC (airborne surveillance and control) as well as the familiar red and gray SAR Sea King Mk6 from 771 Naval Air Squadron. It was 771 NAS Sea King that made history as it delivered the Olympic torch as it arrived at the squadron’s home of RNAS Culdrose to Lands End for it to begin its journey around the country. The RAF contribution to the static display was an AgustaWestland Merlin from RAF Benson.

Finally, the hangars had their own exhibition ranging from the different elements of the air station that supports flying. In the hangar nearest the entrance to the base, SERCO showed off their repair capabilities for the remaining Sea King variants in UK service. In this case it was Royal Air Force (RAF) Sea King HAR.3 SAR fleet of which there were a few inside to be seen, with various panels open or repair rigs around them. AgustaWestland had an AW159 Wildcat on show in another hangar with the proposed weapons systems on display.

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