‘Normandy Flight’ deploy for the first time

849 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) has set off for the Gulf this week to support Royal Navy and coalition forces on operations in the Middle East.

849 NAS has played an essential role in training the Culdrose Sea King Force aircrew and engineers as well as supporting frontline operations.  

It has also has supported various UK based operations including security tasking for the Olympic Games, but this will be the first time that the Squadron will deploy on a frontline operation since the Gulf War.

The Sea King Force at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose is in the process of a restructure which will enable the Navy to continue with its operational tasking until 2018.  

Thereafter 849 Naval Air Squadron will transition into a MK2 Merlin Squadron and deliver the same ‘Airborne Surveillance and Control’ (ASaC) capability, but from upgraded Merlin helicopters.  

The first part of the restructure occurred this week, when personnel from 854 Naval Air Squadron moved under ‘849 Naval Air Squadron Normandy Flight’. 44 personnel led by the first Flight Commander, Lieutenant Tom Hill, began their journey to the Gulf from Brize Norton.  

They will take over from 857 Naval Air Squadron to release personnel for their first Christmas at home in three years.  857 NAS will also be decommissioned in the New Year and morph into ‘Palembang Flight’.  Thereafter 849 NAS will be rededicated as a front line squadron with three Flights.

Commander Victoria Dale-Smith, the Sea King Force Commander said: “This restructure reflects the criticality of the ASaC capability to UK defence and our coalition partners.  

"We are committed to enduring operations and as such, this is the perfect opportunity to shape into a team that can generate, deploy and recover in a manageable and programmed timetable. 

"Our people can finally plan their lives with more certainty and the Force can focus on the drawdown to fewer aircraft and people in 2016, as well as the transition to Merlin Mark 2 thereafter.  

"Normandy Flight are leading the change and continuing to add milestones to the Fleet Air Arm Airborne Early Warning successful history.”

Commander Roger Kennedy, is proud to be the new Commanding Officer of 849 Naval Air Squadron, he said: “As we morph into a single unit, the legacy of the three Squadrons will continue through a streamlined structure and ensure that Airborne Surveillance remains at the heart of the capability.  

"Having completed operations in Afghanistan, the emphasis is now firmly back in the Maritime.  With Normandy Flight’s imminent deployment, we are totally focussed on reaffirming those skills required to deliver current operations in the Gulf.  

"The people of 849 NAS will maintain this operational task in the Gulf for some time to come, while preparing for the introduction of Merlin Mk2 Crowsnest and supporting the Queen Elizabeth Class Carriers”.