The Sea Skua missile all but wiped out Saddam Hussein’s Navy single-handedly in the first Gulf War in 1991, wrecking 14 enemy ships.
But with the Lynx helicopter which carries it, just weeks away from being retired, the missiles were launched for the final time in the middle of the Atlantic as HMS Portland let rip – only the third time this century live Sea Skuas have been fired.
It took a day’s preparation to ready the helicopter and three missiles (a Lynx can actually carry four) for the final firing as the frigate which has been the Lynx’s home for the past eight months headed north from the Azores.
Only one of the sailors responsible for maintaining the helicopter or looking after its weaponry had ever fully tooled a Lynx up before.
When they were finished, Portland launched her giant inflatable ‘killer tomato’ target – typically used for gunnery practice.
Lifting off at near maximum weight, with enough fuel for a sortie of just 70 minutes, most of which was spent scouring the Atlantic to make sure there wasn’t slightest chance of hitting a merchant vessel, while the team in HMS Portland’s operations checked their radars and sensors to make sure the skies over the range were free of other aircraft.
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