820 NAS

820 Naval Air Squadron

820 Naval Air Squadron takes it in turns with sister squadron 814 to act against illegal activities on the high seas.

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820 NAS is one of the three Merlin front-line squadrons - that is until the Commando Helicopter Force squadrons complete their conversion to the new Junglie Merlin.

What do we mean by illegal activities? That’s piracy, people-trafficking, smuggling, drug-running and terrorism

In early 2012 our helicopters were working 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.

Helston schoolchildren learn basic survival skills

Helston schoolchildren learn basic survival skills


820 Naval Air Squadron Latest News

820 Squadron toast heroes who crippled the Bismarck 75 years ago


The carrier’s first squadron gets new man at the helm

See all news for 820 Naval Air Squadron

Current operation Training

The unit is being put through its paces in preparation for returning to front line operations.

  • Operation Gritrock

    he MOD is providing aviation support ship RFA Argus, Merlin helicopters from 820 NAS and military personnel to support efforts to tackle Ebola.

Location UK

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Unit History


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 Years1934

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 Honours1940

All but one of its 12 battle honours were earned before its fliers specialised in anti-submarine warfare. 820 NAS bombed German airfields in the Norway Campaign 1940-41 and Spartivento 1940.

Battle Honours1941

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.

Battle Honours1943

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), Sicily and Salerno.

New Aircraft1944

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

Battle Honours1945

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

Reformation and Revolution1951

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 Warfare1957

In December 1957, 820’s association with anti-submarine warfare began. Whirlwinds, Wessex and Sea Kings formed the cutting edge in the war against the underwater threat.

Battle Honours1982

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 King2003

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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Commanding Officer Jon Holroyd

Rank: Commander

Cdr Holroyd took command of 820 NAS on the 8th February 2016.

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