IN PICTURES: Firepower from the skies over Helmand

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Lance Corporal 'Gaz' Lovett, an aviation crewman on a new Lynx Mark 9A helicopter, tells of his experiences as he provides firepower from the skies in Afghanistan to support troops on the ground.

LCpl Lovett, aged 23, has always wanted to be a door gunner. On joining the Army Air Corps he became an Air Trooper and gained his class one proficiency qualification. After completing the 20-week aviation crewman course he took up his current post.

He is currently serving with 672 Squadron, Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan), supporting troops on the ground, or providing escort to other aircraft. He said:

A typical day in Afghanistan: we all come down to the flight line, rig the cab up with the weapons system, make sure everything is okay on the aircraft, that everything is serviceable and good to go.

We’ll have a brief of what everyone is doing for the day, what aircraft is doing what. Come down as a crew, get sorted out, and get the kit on the aircraft and go flying.

With increased firepower, more powerful engines and the ability to operate in hotter temperatures, the new Lynx Mk 9A has increased the options available to commanders in Afghanistan since its arrival in May 2010.

Lance Corporal Gary Lovett is in control of a .50 calibre heavy machine gun as a 'door gunner' in a Lynx Mark 9A helicopter
Lance Corporal Gary Lovett is in control of a .50 calibre heavy machine gun as a 'door gunner' in a Lynx Mark 9A helicopter [Picture: Corporal Barry Lloyd, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010]

It is fitted with a more advanced communication system, improved surveillance equipment and the M3M Machine Gun - a .50 calibre weapon, capable of firing over 850 rounds a minute. See Related News to read more.

LCpl Lovett, who hails from Birmingham, said:

When we’re in the air, my responsibility is to look out for any other aircraft that could cause a danger to our aircraft. I’m also looking for insurgent activity in relation to other aircraft going in and out of the PBs [patrol bases].

To ensure firing is accurate when engaging potential threats, LCpl Lovett regularly practises firing from the helicopter on the ranges near Camp Bastion. He said:

We get a lot chances to use the ranges out here… It’s a full 360 degree range, which gives you more time on target and more time to fire the weapon system.

A long day out here can be very demanding with all your kit on, but it’s nothing compared to what the guys on the ground have got. And it gives you an awesome sense of achievement picking them up out of the PBs and bringing them back.