Apaches are used extensively by the Army Air Corps in land operations but over the next few weeks they will train to broaden their sea experience and capability with the Royal Navy.
As well as it being a relatively new experience for the three aircraft and ten pilots, there is also a support crew of 120 engineers and maintainers from 4 Regiment Army Air Corps onboard the Portsmouth-based aircraft carrier.
Working around the clock to ensure the safety of the aircraft, this will be the first time at sea for many of the soldiers.
The formidable firepower and target-tracking capabilities of the Apache have already been demonstrated to impressive effect on the battlefields of Afghanistan and while onboard HMS Ark Royal this Army Air Corps detachment will explore how these capabilities can be further extended by working from a seaborne platform.
Under Exercise Joint Warrior, which will take place off the west coast of Scotland, the pilots will initially spend time acclimatising to the unique difficulties which arise when operating at sea, performing deck-landings in a variety of conditions.
Once this process is complete, the Apaches will then take part in simulated small-scale warfare, attacking land targets in a series of assaults planned, launched and directed by HMS Ark Royal.
Commander ‘Rocky’ Salmon, Commander Air on HMS Ark Royal, said:
Being able to operate a diverse range of aircraft from the carrier underlines our flexibility in the joint Service environment and the Apache brings with it an awesome capability.
The focus of this period will be to ensure that we safely integrate 656 Squadron into HMS Ark Royal, provide their crews with deck experience, and develop tactical procedures for the future.