HMS Exeter is shown in the foreground with HMS Illustrious, taking part in Exercise Neptune Warrior
HMS Exeter is shown in the foreground with HMS Illustrious, taking part in Exercise Neptune Warrior.
Having spent two years embarking periodically in HMS Invincible as the High-Readiness Aircraft Carrier, 801 NAS had just returned from 6 weeks training with HMS Illustrious, in order to assist in her preparations for the role. Embarking for the second and third phases of her Operational Sea Training (OST) package, together with 849 Squadron A Flight Sea King Mk 7s and a Sea King Mk 6 of 771 Squadron, 801's Sea Harrier FA2s tailored their flying to provide progressive training for all of HMS Illustrious newly formed crew.
After two weeks of combined Fixed and Rotary Wing flying operations, HMS Illustrious next embarked the RAF Harrier GR7's of 1(F) Squadron, who soon adjusted to the unique demands of operating from an Aircraft Carrier at sea. It was at this point, after three intensive weeks that HMS Illustrious and her Tailored Air Group (TAG) were assessed to be fit to continue into Phase 3 of OST, where a highflying rate would be integrated into a tactical scenario.
Following a brief port visit to Newcastle, in order to refresh all embarked personnel and conduct essential maintenance, HMS Illustrious sailed with her full complement of TAG for Exercise Neptune Warrior. This Exercise had an extremely large number of multinational participants, ranging from HMAS Anzac (an Australian Frigate), to a Dutch Submarine, and was conducted in the challenging waters of the North-West Scottish coast. Neptune Warrior pitted two large Naval Task Groups against each other in a complex Political scenario, and enabled the TAG to operate in a Maritime Strike role, focussing on the GR7s Strike capability
© Crown Copyright
USMC Harriers line the deck of HMS Illustrious
United States Marine Corps (USMC) AV8B Harriers conduct fixed wing work on HMS Illustrious ahead of Operation Bold Step. At the rear of the flight deck, an Osprey MV-22 aircraft can just be seen.
AV8B Harrier Jets from the United States Marine Corps (USMC) Combined Marine Harrier Force have begun a fixed wing work up period on board HMS Illustrious ahead of the US-led Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFX), Operation Bold Step.
The AV8B Jets are on board ILLUSTRIOUS as part of a coalition exercise taking part between the US Navy, USMC and the Royal Navy. The goal of the exercise is to demonstrate allied interoperability and the expeditionary capabilities of Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing aircraft. This exercise marks the first time that an American aviation unit of this scale has been embarked aboard a foreign warship and for the British it is the largest ever embarkation of foreign jets in a UK aircraft carrier.
The Jets have been practising ship-borne operations, a skill which is extremely challenging and requires exacting standards from both the pilots and the crew of the 22, 500 tonne warship. The principle aim is to qualify in day CVS operations; although air combat, electronic warfare training and day combat ready work-up sorties will also be conducted as part of the USMC's participation for the JTFX.
For the Ship's Air Department it has proved to be an excellent training opportunity, with aircraft handlers, Air Traffic and Fighter Controllers, and the air safety organisation all playing a part in the safe and successful embarkation of the squadron.
The Flight Deck Officer, Lt Jon Llewellyn said "Having the Combined Harrier Force on board for this period has provided excellent training and regeneration opportunities for the Flight Deck teams, integrating with the USMC and building the tempo of the deck safely and efficiently. Having the AV8B jets on board has been a pleasure!"
© Crown Copyright