HMS Clyde Fit for Aviation Operations

September and early October have been a busy five weeks for the smallest ship in the Royal Navy with a flight deck.

September kicked off with a visit from the ‘Trappers’ – the Flag Officer Sea Training Aviation team, who provide the external assurance that HMS Clyde is safe to conduct aviation operations.

The ship had her Aviation facilities inspected, routines checked and the worst case scenario of a crash on deck was put through a ‘Table Top Tactics’ exercise, before a full crash exercise scenario was run out on a September afternoon.

Two procedural flying exercises were then conducted, including night flying giving Clyde the all important ‘Safe’ assessment.

With the tests successfully passed, Clyde’s busy programme has seen her flight deck visited by the British International helicopters that provide a lift and shift facility for military personnel and stores around the Falkland Islands.

They also saw frequent overflights by ‘Albert’ the RAF C130 Hercules that conducts Maritime Reconnaissance Patrols for Commander British Forces, and took part in exercises with Fleet Air Arm, the Lynx flight from HMS Iron Duke.

One of Clyde’s most important capabilities to assist the Search and Rescue flight is that of Helicopter In Flight Refuelling (HIFR).

She can refuel an aircraft if it is too rough to land on deck, Clyde’s flight deck team can connect a fuel hose to the aircraft winch, which is then winched up and fitted into the fuelling point on the aircraft.

The flight deck team can then pump fuel from the ship and top up the helicopter’s tanks without the aircraft setting a wheel on the deck.

This capability is practised regularly and is of vital importance on long Search and Rescue missions – Clyde can extend the range of helicopter much further out to sea than would ordinarily be possible without a ‘filling station’ being available.