847 NAS Lynx Fliers Complete Final Afghan Tour of Duty
It was an extremely emotional occasion for the families and friends of the servicemen and women of 847 NAS as they watched them march proudly into their hangar at their home base of RNAS Yeovilton after a four month tour in Afghanistan.
As reported in previous issues of LZDZ during their four-month tour of duty they were the ‘eyes in the skies’ protecting both ground forces and RAF Chinook and Merlin helicopters. It was apparent on their arrival home that the aviators and support personnel were very proud of what they had achieved in Theatre and that whilst there is a strong yet healthy rivalry between UK forces all recognised they were part of a team whose collective aspiration was to help Afghanistan make progress towards becoming a safe and self-reliant country. They also recognised that the military has paid a high price during Operations and fully recognised their extraordinary courage, working in difficult and often dangerous circumstances.
This was the final deployment to Afghanistan by 847 NAS. The Lynx men and women had completed their fourth and final stint in Helmand where they had been deployed since January.
Whilst the aircraft hangar was festooned with bunting and welcome home banners, the centre of attention was six month old Grace Bisgrove the daughter of PO Christian Bisgrove and wife Victoria Cox who after an emotional greeting said, “It is so nice to have him home we have so much to catch up on and it’s such a relief that he’s home and safe.”
847’s CO Lt Col Nick Venn RM said his men and women left Afghanistan having forged “an enviable reputation” with all the units they had worked with – and having achieved “some real operational successes.” He continued: “This tour has been an exceptionally busy one in which the squadron has made a very positive contribution to operations in Helmand – a contribution that is universally recognised. The fantastic work rate and innovation of the engineering team has ensured that, despite only a small pool of aircraft, we have been able to ‘punch above our weight’, consistently ensuring that we always have aircraft ready to meet operational demands. In no small part, the work of the squadron has also contributed directly to helping create the secure environment that the Afghans need as they move towards effective self-governance and security.”
After some well deserved leave, 847 will begin the conversion process as they get to grips with the Wildcat which is replacing all the Fleet Air Arm and Army’s Lynx in the coming years; the squadron will be the first front-line unit to get its hands on the new helicopter.
847 NAS deployed to Afghanistan in January after a two-year break from Helmand, this time flying the AAC’s wheeled Lynx Mk9As.
As well as lacking skids of Lynx previously flown, the Mk9A has more powerful engines – the same as fitted to the Wildcats which are replacing them – and is armed with a .5 calibre machine-gun.
The missions flown have ranged from escorting RAF helicopters around Helmand and acting as the airborne eyes of international and Afghan troops and security forces when conducting patrols outside operating bases.
To meet those demands, the squadron’s engineers and technicians ‘turned-to’ for 103 shifts and put in 10,500 man hours of work on the helicopters. The result – a serviceability rate over 80 per cent – and over 90 per cent in the final month of the deployment – and 650 hours flown by the squadron.
All that effort has been sustained by 80 litres of milk for tea/coffee and 450 meals each – some personnel managed more – with 900 hours’ sleep each to recover.
Collectively, the squadron has lost 110kgs thanks to various fitness regimes, with one engineer cycling 1,300 miles to keep in shape.
This detachment has seen weather comparable to the cold temperatures of Norway and, mid-40s Celsius. Personnel also struggled with a tropical storm which led to a 5in flood sweeping through the aircraft hangar, regular sandstorms and some of the highest gusts of winds ever recorded in Helmand during the final days of their deployment.
847 NAS handed over duties to the Army Air Corps’ 661 Sqn.