Junglie Sea Kings Withdraw from the Desert
The Sea Kings of Commando Helicopter Force completed their final mission in Afghanistan on 30th September 2011 and have returned to the UK to prepare for further contingency operations.
The helicopters, crews and engineers of 845 and 846 Naval Air Squadrons, whose home-base is Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in Somerset, have been deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Herrick since 2007.
The Junglies are the Royal Navy’s amphibious assault specialists, accustomed to embarking in Royal Naval warships to deploy the Royal Marines-led amphibious forces ashore. The Sea King was never designed to perform in the heat and high altitude of a country like Afghanistan but despite this, the aircraft (that first flew in 1969) has performed admirably. Due to its simple and rugged design, the Sea King rarely suffers any significant maintenance issues, and when it does, it is relatively easy to repair.
The Sea King Mk4 has not been the poster pin-up of Afghanistan, but it could perhaps be compared to the Hurricane fighter of World War II. Like the Hurricane, the Sea King has over the years quietly, consistently, and reliably completed its tasks, never seeking to overly advertise its own success. Nevertheless, in their four years of service in support of Op HERRICK, the Commando Sea Kings have flown over 3,800 individual missions. They have safely transported over 80,000 personnel from many different nations around the battlefield and delivered over 700 tonnes of essential war fighting supplies.
The missions flown have been extremely varied, such as extracting battlefield casualties to the safety of a field hospital, inserting sniper teams into mountain observation posts and lifting combat troops and their essential supplies into the heart of enemy territory.
The Junglies have maintained their hard-won reputation for flying skill and bravery, specializing in night-time operations, overcoming often challenging weather conditions to complete their tasks. As such they have earned the respect of the soldiers and marines that they have supported in Afghanistan, as indeed they did in the likes of Iraq, Northern Ireland, and the Balkans before that.
The Commanding Officer of Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan) Commander Matt Grindon RN, said: “The Commando Sea Kings have been hugely impressive during their time in Afghanistan, they will be missed by the troops and by my Operations team who often rely on the Sea King crew’s ability and versatility to get the job done.”