UK: 847 Naval Air Sqn returns to Sierra Leone

UK: 847 Naval Air Sqn returns to Sierra Leone

22-Oct-2010 Source: Royal Navy

A detachment from 847 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) has returned to Sierra Leone after a five year absence. Amongst the detachment personnel were veterans of Operations Palliser and Silkman in 2000, and members who had last visited for Exercise Vela in 2005.

For many Sierra Leone nationals the British Armed Forces, and more specifically those who were directly involved with Operations Palliser and Silkman, are held in high regard. Royal Marines, Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) and HMS Ocean were all involved with the operations to help secure Freetown and defeat the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). During a visit by the Vice President of Sierra Leone, Samuel Sam-Sumana said that the people of Sierra Leone call HMS Ocean ‘the ship of hope’.

During this visit 847’s Lynx Mk7 battlefield helicopters were again based from HMS Ocean, the Royal Navy’s only specialist helicopter carrier and largest warship in the fleet. The four day visit culminated in an amphibious demonstration utilising the ship’s embarked helicopters and Royal Marine Commando landing force.

Whilst anchored off the capital Freetown, 847 NAS used the opportunity to conduct jungle training and help train Sierra Leone troops to operate with helicopters. The jungle training involved low level navigation over the surrounding areas with many towns and villages familiar to those who operated there previously. Wherever 847’s Lynx helicopters operated they were warmly greeted by the locals.

Sierra Leone is one of the last ports of call for HMS Ocean during a 5 month deployment. 847’s detachment has been embarked since she sailed at the start of June. The detachment has taken part in a large scale amphibious exercise in the United States followed by smaller scale training exercises in Brazil and Nigeria. Meanwhile the second half of 847 NAS are currently preparing to deploy on operations in Afghanistan, demonstrating the busy but varied operations which CHF undertake.

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