Royal Navy, 825 Naval Air Squadron, Black Cats Helicopter Display Team flying Wildcat Helicopters, Armed Forces Day, Cleethorpes June 2106 (Crown Copyright, 2016)

Royal Navy Commando Helicopters Join French Task Force

847 Naval Air Squadron Deploys on Jeanne D’Arc Mission

Around 40 Royal Navy and Royal Marine personnel and two Wildcat helicopters have joined the French naval task force, Jeanne D’Arc, for a five-month mission. The ship’s port calls will include Jakarta, Bali, Darwin, Saigon and Singapore. British personnel will take part in amphibious exercises and Defence Engagement. This builds on the UK’s very successful participation in last year’s Jeanne D’Arc mission.

847 Naval Air Squadron stand to attention next to one of two Wildcat helicopters. They have deployed for five months with the Jeanne D'Arc. Crown Copyright.

847 Naval Air Squadron stand to attention next to one of two Wildcat helicopters on deployment for five months with the Jeanne D’Arc (Crown Copyright).

The UK’s contribution to France’s annual Jeanne D’Arc naval deployment demonstrates a shared commitment from both countries to enhance their maritime cooperation in home waters and around the world, in support of global security and prosperity and protection of freedom of navigation. This priority was agreed at the UK-France Summit in January 2018.

Commando Helicopter Force

The role of the Wildcat helicopters of 847 Naval Air Squadron is to provide oversight of the battlespace to 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines.

The squadron is manned by Royal Navy and Royal Marine aircrew as part of the Commando Helicopter Force, which consists of four squadrons in support of the Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade, and is based at RNAS Yeovilton.

It was the only Lynx squadron within the Commando Helicopter Force, and was the first frontline British military unit to convert to the Agusta-Westland Wildcat AH1 – one of the most advanced helicopters in the British military.

Combined Joint Expeditionary Force

The deployment is part of the UK’s wide-ranging programme of bilateral defence cooperation with French forces, which includes the development of the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, a rapidly deployable joint UK-French force that can respond to crises.

British and French forces also operate together as members of NATO, with France agreeing to contribute troops to the UK-led enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup in Estonia in 2019.

847 Naval Air Squadron was formerly deployed on HMS Ocean, the Royal Navy’s helicopter carrier, which is due to be decommissioned this year. An MOD spokeman has confirmed that the government are in talks with Brazil about a possible sale.

Operation RUMAN

In August 2017, three Wildcat helicopters from 847 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) from the Commando Helicopter Force based at Yeovilton deployed on HMS Ocean to participate in the Standing NATO Maritime Group No 2’s multinational maritime and amphibious exercises off the coasts of France, Crete and Turkey.

During the transit to the eastern Mediterranean a number of Caribbean islands were hit by a series of devastating hurricanes, and the ship was diverted to the disaster area to assist with vital relief work.

Once in the Caribbean the 847 NAS Wildcat helicopters were particularly effective in operating and working in constricted and difficult places, which could not be accessed by the bigger and heavier Merlin and Chinook helicopters due to their size or their significant downdraft.

The manoeuvrable Wildcats from 847 NAS undertook numerous day-in and day-out operations getting urgent supplies to cut-off islanders and proved to be an essential part of relief operations.

Sources: MOD; Royal Navy

Image: Royal Navy, 825 Naval Air Squadron, Black Cats Helicopter Display Team flying Wildcat Helicopters, Armed Forces Day, Cleethorpes, June 2106 (Crown Copyright, 2016).

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