700W Squadron History

700 Naval Air Squadron was formed at RNAS Hatston (HMS Sparrowhawk) in Orkney on 21st January 1940, by amalgamating all the 700 series of Catapult Squadrons.

It's initial fleet comprised over 40 Supermarine Walrus (those embarked on HMS Achilles and Ajax were involved in the Battle of the River Plate against the Graf Spee in 1939), 12 Swordfish and 11 Seafoxes.

During the Second World War, several detachments of 700 Sqn were set up overseas, including in the Middle East and in the Mediterranean.

During 1943 the Squadron's aircraft were gradually reduced with the advent of MAC Ships and escort carriers, and as a result 700NAS disbanded in March 1944.

It reformed seven months later in October, at RNAS Donibristle, as a Maintenance Test Pilot Training Squadron, where pilots were required to complete 5 weeks test flying on the basic FAA aircraft then in service.

This course ran for ten weeks at Worthy Down airfield after the Squadron's move, and included experience in the Martlet, Firefly, Hellcat, Firebrand and Seafire amongst others.

700 NAS was later based at Middle Wallop from November 1945, and RNAS Yeovilton from April 1946, and remained based there until disbandment in September 1949.

It reformed for a third time in August 1955, at RNAS Ford as the Trials and Requirements Unit, with a fleet of 9 Fireflys, and 2 each of Sea Vampires, Ansons, Sea Hawks, Wyverns and Gannets.

It lost its Fleet Requirements role when handed over to the Airwork FRU at Hurn during 1957.

A year later the Squadron moved to Yeovilton, before disbanding in 1961.

A number of Intensive Flying Trials Units were formed both before, but mainly after 700 NAS disbanded in 1961, in preparation for new types coming into Fleet Air Arm service.

They operated under the 700 NAS title but as independent formations with their own specialist objectives, each being identified by an individual letter after the number.

Since 1960, various 700 NAS trial flights have welcomed; the Wessex, Wasp, Gannet, Sea Hawk, Buccaneer, Phantom, Sea King, Lynx, Sea Harrier and Merlin into Fleet Air Arm service.

From 18 Mar 1957, 700(H) operated from RNAS Lee-on-Solent to introduce the Whirlwind HAS.7 into FAA service.

As a result of its work, the type was introduced into 845 Squadron in Jun 1957. It disbanded in Sep 1957.

In Oct 1959, 700(X) formed at Yeovilton with the Saunders Roe P.531 to investigate what would be needed to introduce a whole new form of helicopter operation to the Fleet - from small ships' flight decks.

As well as deck handling, trials with a folding tail, choice of landing gear and flight deck equipment, the success of its work led to the first production order for the Wasp HAS.1 from Westland at Hayes. It disbanded in Jun 1961.

700(H) was reformed in Jan 1960 at RNAS Culdrose to introduce the Wessex HAS.1 to RN service.

Its main job was to devise effective operating techniques for the familiar Type 194 Sonar (the same as fitted in the Whirlwind HAS.7), using a more powerful turbine engine and automatic flight stabilisation assistance, especially at night.

The unit's spectacular results led directly to the formation of 815 Squadron in Jul 1961, followed by 819 and 814 Squadrons, both in autumn 1961.

In Jun 1963, following the pioneering work of 700(X), 700(W) was formed at RNAS Culdrose to determine the most effective fleet operating procedures and mission profiles for the Wasp HAS.1.

For the first time, any suitably equipped surface vessel could direct a Wasp remotely, to allow it to unload its torpedo payload onto a submarine contact the Wasp had found with its own airborne sonar - a real force multiplier. It disbanded in March 1964, to form the basis of 829 Squadron.

To cope with the radically improved performance of the twin turbine Wessex HU.5, its potential armaments and externally slung lift capability in the Commando Assault role, 700(V) formed at RNAS Culdrose on 5 Dec 1963 to introduce the new type into RN service.

Its work enabled the first front line Wessex HU.5 unit, 848 Squadron to form in Oct 1964, followed by the Commando Advanced Flying Training Unit in Dec 1964 and 845 Squadron in Oct 1965. It disbanded in Oct 1964.

The Wessex HAS.3 first flew in 1966 and in Jan 1967, 700(H) was reformed at RNAS Culdrose to introduce the much improved version into RN service.

New operating procedures were required for the Type 195 Sonar set, and the Ecko radar situated in the Camel's Hump aft of the main rotor head.

It also faced the challenge of devising viable mission profiles with the weight of new equipment, plus the weapon system, within the airframe's performance envelope.

Its success contributed to the formation of the first Wessex HAS.3 unit, 814 Squadron in Oct 1967. The Advanced Flying Training Squadron was next, followed by the Observer Advanced & Operational Flying Training Squadron, 820, 819 and 826 Squadrons in Oct 1968. 700(H) disbanded in Sep 1967.

Just 3 months after the first flight of the Sea King HAS.1, 700(S) Squadron formed at RNAS Culdrose in Aug 1969 to evaluate the type's performance and effectiveness in the anti-submarine role.

Initially equipped with the same well understood sensors proven by 700(H) when it introduced the Wessex HAS.3, 700(S) successfully demonstrated the superior performance and endurance of the Sea King.

Its work paved the way for the creation of 706 Squadron in Jan 1970, followed by the first front line Sea King HAS.1 unit, 824 Squadron in Feb 1970, then 826 in Jun 1970, 737 in Jul 1970, 819 in Feb 1972, 820 in Dec 1972 and 814 Squadron in Mar 1973. 700(S) disbanded in May 1970.

In Sep 1976, 700(L) formed at RNAS Yeovilton tasked with introducing the Lynx HAS.2 into RN service.

A considerable body of Small Ships knowledge had been accumulated through the work of 700(X) and 700(W) IFTUs with the Wasp HAS.1 and much work had been done by Westland in the 4 years since the first Naval Lynx prototype flew.

It was unique in that it was a joint Royal Navy and Royal Dutch Navy unit (the Dutch had ordered the SH-14B version). Live deck landing trials began on HMS Birmingham (D86) in Feb 1977.

The Dutch contingent departed in May 1977, while 700(L) disbanded in Dec 1977 to reform as 702 Squadron in Jan 1978.

700(L) reformed at RNAS Portland (HMS Osprey) from the Lynx Operational Flying Trials Unit in Jul 1990, to introduce the Racal Avionics Central Tactical System (CTS) into the Lynx fleet.

Once its job was done, 700(L) was absorbed into 815 Squadron as the 815 LOEU in Jul 1992.

The previous 700 NAS was the Merlin Operational Evaluation Unit, formed on 1 December 1998 as 700(M) based at RNAS Culdrose, equipped with the Royal Navy's then new Merlin HM Mk1 aircraft.

Their primary task was testing and evaluating the Merlin HM Mk1 prior to disbandment in March 2008 when the aircraft and personnel were transferred to 824 Squadron.

The latest 700 Squadron reforms on 14 May 2009 as 700(W) Squadron based at RNAS Yeovilton.

The Wildcat Fielding Squadron is tasked to conduct the trials necessary to optimize operating procedures and ensure the safe and efficient introduction to RN service and delivery of Wildcat Operational Capability.

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