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820 NAS

820 Naval Air Squadron

820 Naval Air Squadron, one of the Navy’s trio of front-line Merlin helicopter squadrons, takes it in turns with our sister squadron 814, also based at Culdrose in Cornwall, to support the international effort against illegal activities on the high seas east of Suez – that’s piracy, people-trafficking, smuggling, drug-running and terrorism.


Our helicopters have worked on the anti-piracy surge off Somalia. We played a vital role in intercepting – and in some cases destroying – pirate action groups before they could strike at lawful shipping.


Ross Spooner

814 NAS, 820 NAS
Military experience

Although born in Leicester, Commander Spooner completed his education at Helston Comprehensive in Cornwall before joining the Royal Navy as an Air Engineering Artificer in 1987.

During his apprenticeship he served with 706, 810 and 820 Naval Air Squadrons (NAS) before selection for Officer training in 1992. He went on to read Aeronautical Engineering at the Royal Naval Engineering College Manadon and was selected for Test Pilot training. Completing his Certificate of Competence as an Air Engineer Officer in 1997, he subsequently gained his Wings in 2000 after Anti-Submarine Warfare pilot training with 705 and 810 NAS.

Joining the Front-Line with 820 NAS, his 2 year tour included a Gulf deployment, a broad range of NATO.

Conversion to the Merlin HM Mk1 during 2002 was followed by a return to Operations with 814 NAS in 2003 for OPERATION TELIC. An early assignment as the Culdrose Maintenance Test Pilot in October 2003 provided the challenge of Airworthiness and Flight Test responsibilities for both Sea King Mk 5/6/7 and Merlin Mk 1/3 aircraft combined with the leadership and management of a highly specialised team.

Transferring to the Warfare Branch in 2007, he subsequently qualified as a Helicopter Instructor in 2008 and attained Chartered Engineer status. Returning to the Front-Line as Senior Pilot and Executive Officer of 814 NAS in June 2010, a deployment in HMS Ark Royal for AURIGA 10 was quickly followed by 3 detachments to the Gulf in support of Operation KIPION.

Selected for promotion to Commander in 2012, he attended the Advanced Command and Staff Course before converting to the Merlin HM Mk2 aircraft. He assumed Command of 820 NAS in January 2014.




Military training exercise Joint Warrior draws to a close
14 April 2014

Royal Navy ships, submarines and aircraft together with NATO partners...

New Merlins in the thick of Europe’s largest Naval Exercise
04 April 2014

After preparations onboard HMS Illustrious, new Merlin Mk 2 helicopters...

Royal Recognition for Commanding Officer
Royal Recognition for Commanding Officer
25 March 2014

Commander Chris Godwin has been awarded the Queen’s Commendation for...

Preparations begin for Exercise Joint Warrior
24 March 2014

HMS Illustrious, the Royal Navy’s helicopter and commando carrier, and...


Cold Weather Training


Cold Weather Training is a multinational exercise led by the Norwegian Armed Forces. While current operations are focussed on Afghanistan, it is vital that the Royal Navy maintains its amphibious capability in a cold weather environment. This training brings together the Royal Marines, assault ships and other Fleet assets, and the helicopters of the Fleet Air Arm.

Read More

Maritime security


British ships and units are committed to operations around the world. Operations focus on maritime security, reassurance and wider regional engagement to build regional maritime capability.



820 Naval Air Squadron HISTORY

  • Inception

    First formed in 1933 when the RAF transferred several Fairey III aircraft from its 405 Flight to the Royal Navy. For two thirds of its lifespan 820 NAS would be devoted to anti-submarine warfare.

  • Early Years

    Originally attached to HMS Courageous on reconnaissance duties, it was reassigned to HMS Ark Royal IV which would be its home for much of the legendary carrier’s three-year career.

  • Battle Honours

    All but one of its dozen battle honours were earned before its fliers became specialists in anti-submarine warfare. The squadron partook in the bombing of German airfields in the Norway Campaign 1940-1 and Spartivento 1940.

  • Battle Honours

    Most famously, 820 was responsible for crippling the pride of Hitler’s Kriegsmarine in the famous engagement with the Bismarck (nemesis of the Hood) in 1941. They were also active in the Atlantic and Malta Convoys in this period.

  • Battle Honours

    Re-equipped with Fairey Albacore torpedo bombers, the squadron supported the Allied landings in North Africa (sinking the U-boat which had destroyed HMS Barham the year before), Sicily and Salerno.

  • New Aircraft

    More new aircraft (Fairey Barracudas) and a new target (Tirpitz) followed (the squadron didn’t sink the leviathan) before yet another change of weaponry (Grumman Avengers) and a final theatre of war (the Far East).

  • Battle Honours

    In those final months, 820's Avengers struck at the oil refineries of Palembang and the heart of the Japanese Empire (Tokyo) before HMS Indefatigable brought the squadron home in 1946 and 820 disbanded.

  • Reformation and Revolution

    The squadron re-formed five years later, first with fixed-wing aircraft (Fireflies, Avengers and Gannets) before the decision was taken to convert to helicopters.

  • Anti-Submarine Warfare

    It was here, in December 1957, that 820’s association with anti-submarine warfare began. Whirlwinds, Wessexes and Sea Kings formed the cutting edge in the war against the underwater threat.

  • Battle Honours

    The squadron’s most recent battle honour was earned in the Falklands (its aircrew flew more than 4,700 hours during the campaign to re-take the South Atlantic islands).

  • Farewell Sea King

    820 finally bade farewell to the Sea King in 2003 and welcomed the helicopter which is now the mainstay of Britain’s anti-submarine defence.

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