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POAET(AV) Oliver Smith, 820NAS HMS Ocean

HMS Ocean
PO Smith

Saturday 21st March – Thursday 26th March.

The ship is working defence watches this week. Not that my working routine changes as I always work watches. I am an Avionics Trade Supervisor and part of 820 Naval Air Squadron. We are currently embarked with four Merlin Mk 1 aircraft in HMS Ocean as part of Taurus 09. The previous few weeks of the deployment has seen us exercising our primary roles of Anti-Surface Warfare and Anti-Submarine Warfare. We have continued to provide protection to the task force from surface and sub-surface threats during the current exercise. This has been a busy period for me as my main trade tasks are to keep the Merlin’s Radar and Sonar serviceable.

Saturday saw the squadron perform one of its secondary roles, casualty evacuation. A fast role change was required to provide space for a stretcher. The rest of the day was spent preparing for a two aircraft deployment to HMS Bulwark. The aircraft going on the detachment were serviced on deck and the spare was struck to the hanger for a small work package. Having prepared all the support equipment needed for a short detachment it was then cancelled as we could carry out the required sorties from HMS Ocean.

Sunday morning was spent cleaning. The hangar AMCO first, followed by the mess. The evening watch had us role changing again; this time to allow us to perform troop transportation. A Chinook has arrived on board and we will be supporting them during this period of amphibious landings. A Merlin can carry up to twelve troops whilst retaining the use of its Sonar. This can be increased to twenty troops if required. We also serviced one of our aircraft to act as the search and rescue for the task group.

Monday morning saw one of our Merlin’s transporting personnel between different ships of the task group and with no flying planned during the afternoon watch there is no problem generating three aircraft for tonight’s flypro. The rest of the watch was spent improving the material state of the aircraft, a mix of inspecting, cleaning and protecting against corrosion.

I was back on the morning watch on Tuesday. A second Chinook had arrived which meant there was limited deck space for us to use. To allow us some freedom we detached one aircraft to RFA Wave Ruler for the day. It was only a short ten minute flight to get there. We were at alert 30 on arrival and no sooner than we had sat down for breakfast the aircraft was activated. Whilst the aircraft was tasked to hunt a Turkish submarine full advantage of the weather was taken and we did some sunbathing. The flight back left before dinner which was a shame as breakfast and lunch were very enjoyable.

We were providing search and rescue cover on Wednesday afternoon and one of the aircraft was activated. It was a busy afternoon for my section, with multiple faults and some minor role changes. Preparation for another detachment to RFA Wave Ruler was also carried out.

The detachment to RFA Wave Ruler was cancelled today to the disappointment of the personnel going. With no flying planned in the morning there was time to relax and chase up a few loose ends. The day will finish with a photo of all the embarked squadrons, 820 NAS, 845 NAS and 18 Squadron RAF. 845 and 18 Squadron leave at the end of the current exercise; this will give us some breathing space for a while before 847 NAS join us later in the trip.