Pirate FM News

PHOTOS: Culdrose helicopters to do farewell fly-past

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Published by Emma Carton at 8:24am 19th September 2018. (Updated at 4:26pm 19th September 2018)

It is all eyes on the skies over Cornwall for a farewell fly-past of some of our oldest helicopters.

The Sea King Mk7s, famous for protecting the Navy's fleet at sea, have served in conflicts around the world.

Now the choppers, known as 'Old Girl', are being retired after almost 50 years' service.

They are set to fly across the Duchy and Devon, leaving RNAS Culdrose at 11am on Wednesday, 

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Some of our oldest helicopters, the Sea King Mk7s, are doing a farewell fly-past over Cornwall and Devon

When and where can I see the Sea Kings?

The Sea Kings will leave RNAS Culdrose in Helston at 11am, heading east over Falmouth at 11.07am, reaching St Austell Bay at 11.20am and appearing over Saltash at 11.37am.

The choppers will then make their way around Devon, taking in Plymouth, Dartmouth, Paington and Teignmouth, before flying over Burrator Reservoir at 12.55pm.

They will then head back towards west Cornwall, taking in Bodmin Airport at 13.04pm, Padstow at 13.09pm, Newquay Airport at 13.12pm, Penhale Camp at 13.15pm, Chiverton Cross at 13.20pm, Mount Hawke at 13.22pm, Godrevy Lighthouse at 13.28pm, Land's End Airport at 13.40pm, Sennen Cove at 13.42pm, the Minnack Theatre at 13.44am, Penzance at 13.50pm, St Michael's Mount at 13.52pm and Tregonning at 13.56pm, before heading back to Helston by 14.00pm.

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The Sea King Mk7s are being retired after keeping the Navy's fleet at sea safe for almost 50 years

Commanding officer of 849 Squadron Chris Hughes told Pirate FM it will be an emotional day.

"The Sea King has been around for 49 years so it's going to be very sad to see her go.

"But all good things must come to an end so this is an opportunity for us to say goodbye to one aircraft but say hello to another one.

"It's certainly something that's very special for us. It'll probably be quite dusty when we land-on as people shed the occasional tear but it'll be sad to see the 'Old Girl' go; we're very fond of her".

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The Sea King Mk7s search for aerial threats to the fleet or suspicious movements on the ground in support of land forces.

What do we know about the Sea Kings?

The Sea King Mk7 'Airborne Surveillance and Control' helicopters - known throughout the Royal Navy as Baggers - have been the 'eyes in the sky' of the Navy since 2003, searching for aerial threats to the Fleet - or suspicious movements on the ground in support of land forces. They owe their nickname due to the distinctive inflatable black sack or bag on the side of each helicopter.

It may look a rather cumbersome piece of kit from the outside, but inside that sack is the cutting-edge Searchwater 2000 radar capable of remarkably-accurate detection of surface and air targets.

Once enemy units are detected, the helicopter's observers can direct friendly air, sea or ground forces to intercept - as they did with devastating effect during the fighting in southern Iraq in 2003.

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The baggers carried out over 2,000 operational sorties during their five-year mission to the Gulf and Afghanistan

The baggers have got an impressive operational history, having delivered successfully in many conflicts in areas including the Gulf and in Afghanistan where during their five-year mission, they carried out over 2,000 operational sorties in temperatures ranging between 55C and -15C.

The information they fed back to ground forces led to the arrest of 150 terrorist suspects, 40 tonnes of drugs and 172 tonnes of home-made explosives being seized.

However, the airframes are old. Therefore, the capability that the Baggers have delivered, will soon be transferred to the more modern Merlin Mk2 helicopters under a project called Crowsnest.

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The capability that the Baggers have delivered will soon be transferred to the Merlin Mk2 helicopters, under a project called Crowsnest.

What do we know about the Merlins?

The Sea King aircraft may be disappearing from the skies but the personnel and the capability will not. The 'Airborne Surveillance and Control' capability and the highly skilled and experienced personnel, will transfer to the Merlin Helicopter Force.

A new system called 'Crowsnest' will be fitted to maritime Merlin Mk2 helicopters, based at RNAS Culdrose, which already perform a number of important roles for the Royal Navy, including hunting for submarines.

Crowsnest will provide a vital intelligence, surveillance and tracking system for the new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, capable of detecting any potential threats at sea.

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Crowsnest will provide an intelligence, surveillance and tracking system for the new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers

The Merlins will act as the eyes and ears for the Royal Navy's ships, providing long range air, maritime and land detection and tracking capability.

If you are planning to watch the Sea Kings' fly-past - let us know and send your photos at the link below.

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