The UK Royal Marines have flight tested the new Wildcats of the Commando Helicopter Force for the first time in Norway.
Four Wildcats from 847 Naval Air Squadron have spent six weeks contending with temperatures down to 30 below zero, snow storms and high winds, The UK Royal Navy said in a statement Thursday.
Each winter the Commando Helicopter Force takes some of its aircraft, air and ground crew to Bardufoss – roughly half way between Tromsø and Narvik, and a good 170 miles inside the Arctic Circle.
The training – Exercise Clockwork (because it’s regular as) – is intended to ensure sailors and Royal Marines on the force can survive in such an unforgiving environment (living in tents or snow holes, if necessary, clambering out of holes in the ice if it breaks, cooking the local wildlife if you run out of rations) as well as maintain their helicopters and, in the case of the aircrew, fly them.
The latter saw the fliers run through the gamut of military operations from the basics of landing in snow – the down-draught from the rotor blades throws up a swirling wall of fine snow – to ferrying loads, scouting for the troops on the ground, a spot of shooting practice for the aircrewman with the machine-gun and using the Wildcat to direct Allied jets on to targets.
The Norwegian experience saw the Wildcats packed into the cavernous cargo holds of RAF C-17 transporters for the first time and demonstrated that the helicopters’ mottled grey paint scheme is a highly-effective camouflage in the snow.
Pilot Lieutenant Alex Lovell-Smith said, “The challenges are unique: the weather can change in an instant, so our captaincy and flying skills are always tested.