Navy exchange pilot works with former colleagues in Oman

A Royal Navy pilot, who is on loan to the Royal Air Force of Oman, has had the opportunity to work with British Forces exercising in the region.

Lynx pilot Lieutenant Commander David Lilly has been on Exercise Omani Cougar – a six-day exercise which saw the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group working with the Royal Navy of Oman, the Royal Air Force of Oman, and the Omani Coastal Regiment.

“It’s odd that even on loan service to the Royal Air Force of Oman I still get to land on a Royal Navy warships at least once, if not twice a year,”

David said.

The maritime exercise, which is now drawing to a close, tests how the Royal Navy and Royal Navy of Oman work together by holding maritime warfare serials. There is also amphibious training with Royal Marines from 42 Commando together with the Omani Coastal Regiment.

Daily exchanges of Royal Navy and Royal Navy of Oman personnel has also been taking place so that sailors from both nations can see how each other operate.

David has spent nearly three years on loan service but his time is drawing to a close and he will return to the UK next year to work with the Lynx Wildcat aircraft which is replacing the Lynx Mark 8 helicopter.

Wildcat takes the very best features of the existing Fleet Air Arm Lynx – and gives it extra punch. The engines are considerably more powerful and are the same as those on the Super Lynx in Oman, providing a much improved performance when operating in hot environments and at high altitudes.

Cutting-edge targeting systems, similar to the Apache gunship, and a 360˚ full-colour surveillance radar, will help crew pick out targets and if necessary engage them with two new missiles systems specifically being developed for use on the aircraft.

Wildcat will carry out a variety of roles – anti-ship, anti-submarine, ship protection, casualty evacuation, battlefield reconnaissance and general utility, but it will bear the suffix HMA, which stands for ‘Helicopter Maritime Attack.

“Omani Cougar is a great way for the Royal Air Force of Oman and the Royal Navy of Oman to enhance their integration of their Super Lynx helicopter into maritime operations, a relatively new environment for the guys,” Lt Cdr Lilly said: “From my point of view my three years in Oman has literally flown by.

"But it’s given me the great opportunity to operate in new environments that were unfamiliar to me such as the hot temperatures, the deserts and the mountains, so it has pushed me as a pilot.

“My last job before leaving the UK was on 700W NAS starting the preparations for the new aircraft whilst also continuing as an instructor so it’s been fantastic for me to continue to impart my maritime aviation knowledge to my co-pilot and the other guys on the squadron.”

It’s given me the great opportunity to operate in new environments that were unfamiliar to me such as the hot temperatures, the deserts and the mountains, so it has pushed me as a pilot.

pilot Lieutenant Commander David Lilly

Five Royal Navy of Oman warships joined HMS Bulwark, HMS Illustrious and RFA Mounts Bay for Ex Omani Cougar which was led by Captain (Aqeed) Haider bin Ahmed bin Raheem Dad Al Zadgali, Director of Operations Royal Navy of Oman (RNO).

The RFTG is the United Kingdom’s high readiness maritime force, comprising ships, submarines, survey vessels, aircraft and a landing force of Royal Marines, which stands at short notice to act in response to any contingency tasking if required by government.

Each year the RFTG deploys for four months to practise their skills as a group – with the Lead Commando Group Royal Marines embarked for their amphibious warfighting capability. The LCG in this case is 42 Commando.

The Cougar 13 deployment , which left in August, has so far worked in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, the Gulf, and Horn of Africa.

It involves exercising with partner nations, and will show the UK Armed Forces’ capacity to project an effective maritime component anywhere in the world.