Families welcome back aviators to Culdrose from Carrier Strike Group deployment

Topic: Fighting armsFleet Air Arm Storyline: Family

Families gathered at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose today (Wednesday December 8) to welcome home their loved ones from the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

More than 200 men and women from 820 Naval Air Squadron have spent nearly seven months onboard the Royal Navy’s flagship for the UK’s Carrier Strike Group 2021 deployment to the Far East.

Returning to the air station at Helston in Cornwall, with their seven Merlin Mk2 helicopters, were around 60 aircrew and engineers from the squadron while the others have returned separately.

The Carrier Strike Group 2021 has included nine ships from various allied countries, one submarine, 32 aircraft and more than 3,700 personnel. The deployment has been a significant milestone in establishing the UK’s global capability to operate F35 jets as part of the UK’s conventional deterrent.

It has also served as an ideal opportunity for the UK to work alongside its NATO allies and partners, with visits, air exercises and operations. The group has worked alongside ships from Canada, Denmark, France, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea and the US.

The commanding officer of 820 Naval Air Squadron, Commander Ian Varley, who returned to RNAS Culdrose today, said: “We’ve been away from home for the more than half a year and it is wonderful to be back at our Culdrose base again.

“Taking part in a deployment like this, in terms of its significant scale and global reach, has been a great opportunity for all my personnel. It’s been a memory-forming deployment as we have lived and worked on the fleet flagship, contributing to the Royal Navy’s firm expression that carrier strike is back in business.

“We have also enjoyed the chance to work with the rest of the strike group ships, sharing experiences with Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army, Air Force, Netherlands Navy and United States Navy and Marine Corps personnel as we deployed to the Pacific Ocean.

“I am deeply honoured to have led the men and women under my Command during this historic deployment and I know they will all be looking forward to some well-earned leave with their loved ones over Christmas.”

Also taking part in the deployment were more than 40 sailors from RNAS Culdrose’s 1700 Naval Air Squadron, who have served on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ships Fort Victoria, Tidesurge and Tidespring, the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, in addition to providing supporting roles on HMS Defender, Diamond, Richmond and Kent. 

The squadron’s personnel include aviation officers, aircraft handlers, weapons engineers, air engineers, medics, logistical personnel, and other support personnel.
The commanding officer of 1700 Naval Air Squadron, Lieutenant Commander Maxine Burgess, said: “Personnel from 1700 NAS have been heavily involved in this deployment, serving on the carrier itself and her support ships, and working alongside our Royal Fleet Auxiliary colleagues.

“I am very proud of all those personnel deployed, and also the team that support them, to ensure this deployment has been a success. This has been one of the largest concentrations of naval power in a decade, and my personnel have worked alongside navies around the world. It’s been a great achievement for all involved.”

Taking part in a deployment like this, in terms of its significant scale and global reach, has been a great opportunity for all my personnel.

Commander Ian Varley