Daring’s Lynx fliers singled out for Philippines disaster mission

The Lynx helicopter team who played a key part in helping the people of the Philippines in the wake of last year’s devastating typhoon have been singled out for their efforts.

In the first few days of Britain’s response to Typhoon Haiyan, HMS Daring’s Lynx flew vital reconnaissance missions over outlying islands – missions which determined where the UK’s main humanitarian effort would be.

This was a high-tempo operation and my first time flying in to a real disaster area

Lieutenant Hamish Walker, Pilot

The six flights the 815 Naval Air Squadron helicopter – ‘Daring’s Darling’ – completed scoured more than 42,000 square miles of land and sea, including four dozen islands and 1,200 nautical miles of coastline, in all an area more than five times the size of Wales.

And once the most needy areas of the archipelago had been identified, the Lynx again proved crucial in delivering that aid.

In total 70 islands were visited by HMS Daring and 7,656 litres of water, 411 boxes of biscuits, 223 kitchen sets and almost 500 shelters were distributed to those in need; all either by the destroyer’s Lynx or her two Pacific 24 sea boats.

“This was a high-tempo operation and my first time flying in to a real disaster area,” said pilot Lt Hamish Walker.

“We worked from sunrise to sunset and then the ground crew worked tirelessly overnight to prepare the aircraft for the next day.”

The Philippines mission – codenamed Operation Patwin – came half-way through the first global deployment by HMS Daring, during which her helicopter flew the equivalent of once around the earth herself.

The nine-month tour of duty took the ship to the Americas, Australia, the Far East and Middle East, with exercises with 15 foreign navies, including the FS Charles de Gaulle and her task group as the ‘Sidereal’ deployment drew to a close.

As a result the pace rarely let up for either the ship’s company or 200 Flight – aircrew Flight Commander Lt Cdr Jo Harper and pilot Lt Walker, plus engineers and technicians who worked around the clock to maintain the Lynx Mk8.

The challenge of maintaining safe and operationally effective aviation over an extended deployment was no mean feat, but a challenge that Daring and 200 Flight 815 Squadron rose to – as evidenced by the award of the Sopwith Pup Trophy (which does indeed feature the legendary World War 1 fighter) as the flight which maintained the highest degree of operational capability over the past 12 months.

Running an operational Lynx flight, continuing to improve flight safety and managing the upkeep while maintaining operational effectiveness is a challenge on any deployment, but to do this for nine months on the opposite side of the world from their base at RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset is a real achievement.

As for the launchpad of Darling’s Darling, the Type 45 destroyer is undergoing maintenance and a substantial upgrade to her potency including improvements to many of her weapons, sensors and communication systems, as well as fitting Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles. 

She will return to sea in the autumn to conduct work-up, then Operational Sea Training in preparation for her third deployment next year.

Images by PO(Phot) Wheelie A'barrow