824 Naval Air Squadron, based at Royal Navy Air Station Culdrose near Helston in Cornwall has been awarded the Fleet Air Arm’s Bambara Flight Safety Shield. This annual award was given to 824 NAS in recognition of the Squadron’s commendable Flight Safety ethos throughout the last year.
The shield was presented by Rear Admiral Tom Cunningham who has just taken up the post of Chief of Staff (Aviation and Carriers), the head of the Fleet Air Arm. Following Naval tradition the youngest member of the Squadron’s Flight Safety Committee; Air Engineering Technician Craig McEwen accepted the award on behalf of the Squadron.
Rear Admiral Cunningham also presented Chief Petty Officer Davis with a “Good Show” award in recognition of his exceptional judgement, determination and justified confidence in his abilities that resulted in him pursuing and ultimately resolving a very serious threat to Flight Safety across the Merlin fleet.
824’s Commanding Officer, Commander Gavin Richardson, said the awards were: “A fantastic achievement for 824 Naval Air Squadron made even more special by the fact that it was awarded in the Fleet Air Arm’s centenary year against a back-drop of a high operational tempo”. He added: “I am very proud of my people and the award of the Bambara shield is testament to their flight safety ethos and hard work”.
Since first being formed, 824 Squadron has operated several different aircraft types and has been involved in multiple operations for which is has been awarded eight Battle Honours. The most famous of these was its instrumental involvement in the Battle of Taranto in 1940 where Swordfish aircraft took part in the first all-aircraft naval attack and crippled the Italian Fleet in Taranto harbour. This single attack changed the shape of modern naval warfare away from Battleships towards Naval Strike Aviation.
The current 824 Squadron was commissioned in June 2000 as the Merlin Training Squadron. Comprising two elements, the Merlin Training Facility (MTF) and the Flight Line, the Squadron trains students of varying degrees of aviation experience ranging from ab-initio pilots, observers, aircrewman and engineers, to those converting from other Front Line aircraft types.
When fully trained, crews and engineers move to one of the three Front Line Merlin squadrons where they can be tasked to operate anywhere in the world. Two of the squadrons, 820 NAS and 814 NAS, form part of the Tailored Air Group which primarily offers Anti-Submarine Warfare protection to the Fleet. The third, 829 NAS, provide ship’s flights which operate from the Royal Navy’s Type 23 Frigates; a combination offering a very potent Anti-Submarine and Anti-Surface Warfare capability.
The Merlin is one of the world’s most advanced Anti-Submarine Warfare aircraft. However, impressive size, endurance and versatility have ensured its role of Maritime Patrol Helicopter. The current aircraft type is the Merlin HM Mk1 which is due a capability update in the near future. 824 will be the first squadron to receive and operate the Mk2 aircraft which is to enter service in late 2013.
The versatility of Merlin allows contribution to a variety of operations. Seeing service throughout the world, it continues to provide assistance to enduring operations in the Middle East and to Counter Piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.
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