At the ranges we’ve been operating the M3M weapons system, qualifying our weapons operators in their annual competency

Petty Officer Aircrewman Paul Iche

They have forged and strengthened bonds with fellow NATO forces, the Army’s Apache attack helicopter – on its first venture to Exercise Clockwork – and, of course, with their familiar friends the Royal Marines.

During helicopter assault missions, the Wildcat provided an escort to four Bell 412s of 339 Squadron of the Royal Norwegian Air Force.

The Wildcats used their capability as a battlefield reconnaissance helicopter to clear landing sites, making way for the Norwegians’ twin-engine utility warbird to deliver troops to the frontline or extract them.

While supporting the Norwegian aircraft, the Wildcats provided crucial air support, communicating closely with embedded units from the United States Marine Corps, to guarantee ground units had sufficient cover.

Alongside the Royal Marines, the Wildcats trained with 30 Commando XI’s Surveillance and Reconnaissance Squadron, while work alongside the Apache of 656 Squadron also proved highly fruitful. 

Together the two helicopters are becoming a deadly duo, with Wildcat finding targets using its reconnaissance abilities and Apache destroying it. 

Before taking the fight into the cold, the Wildcats' crews first undertook qualifications to be able to operate in the Arctic freeze. 

That was made up of ten sorties, including mountain flying, snow landings by day, night and using night vision goggles.

On top of that, the Wildcats flew in tactical formation and trained in underslung loads. 

For some of the aircrew, this was their first time operating overseas and the difficult conditions of Norway proved challenging. 

Lieutenant Mark Hanson, said: “Conducting snow landings at night using night vision goggles in a formation pair after a day of heavy snow proved to be challenging and a steep learning curve but, at the same time, was very rewarding.”

Completion of this phase was a significant achievement and meant the squadron could now operate in the Arctic effectively.

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