Helicopters from 849 Naval Air Squadron have been taking part in a major maritime exercise this week with the United States aircraft carrier USS George H W Bush off the west coast of Cornwall.
The exercise, codenamed Saxon Warrior, is an important part of the co-operation between the UK and the US militaries, and has been taking place while President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have met to discuss ongoing military ties between the two countries.
The sophisticated radar on board the Royal Navy’s Airborne Surveillance and Control (ASaC) helicopters is being used to help control the jets from the USS George H W Bush, and is proving invaluable as the primary role of the helicopter crews is, and always has been, the detection and control of aircraft over the sea.
The ASaC’s radar is equally effective over land, and is being used to great effect in Afghanistan and the Middle East. Some 60 per cent of Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Culdrose’s aircraft (where 849 Naval Air Squadron is based) are currently deployed on various operations, including anti-piracy patrols off Somalia.
The US Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, USS George H W Bush departed Norfolk, Virginia, in the USA in the early morning of Wednesday 11 May, leading her Carrier Strike Group (CSG) on its first overseas deployment.
In the initial stages of the deployment, the CSG has been conducting an integrated maritime exercise with some of its NATO partners off the south west coast of the UK.
The CSG Commander, Rear Admiral Nora Tyson, said:
These crucial training opportunities greatly enhance our interoperability and information-sharing, which help ensure our national and international security. It’s all about building partnerships, establishing trust, and leveraging the unique capabilities and strengths of each member of the combined force.
The deployment of the strike group is part of an ongoing rotation of US forces supporting maritime security operations in international waters around the globe.
Commander Erich Roetz, US Navy, said:
Saxon Warrior will test every aspect of our war-fighting capabilities - from air wing strikes to the self-defence of the carrier.
The beauty of operating with coalition partners is that we practise with them, learn their strengths, and then blend those strengths together to make the most potent coalition force possible.
The George H W Bush Carrier Strike Group (GHWB CSG) consists of Carrier Strike Group 2 staff, Carrier Air Wing 8, Destroyer Squadron 22 staff, the USS George H W Bush, guided-missile cruisers USS Gettysburg and USS Anzio, guided-missile destroyers USS Truxtun and USS Mitscher, and Spanish frigate ESPS Almirante Juan de Borbon.
The GHWB CSG, which includes over 6,000 sailors, has spent the last year conducting intensive training and certification exercises to establish a safe, cohesive organisation capable of performing a wide variety of missions across the globe, ranging from anti-piracy and ground support operations to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
As a maritime nation, the UK is heavily dependent on sea-borne trade, with 90 per cent of our goods being transported by sea, and, whilst the Fleet Air Arm squadrons from RNAS Culdrose and elsewhere are making their presence felt in places like Afghanistan, it is the maritime projection of power and protection that remains the number one imperative.