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Royal Navy aircraft handlers join US counterparts for flight deck training

23 August 2016
Royal Navy sailors who will direct Lightning II strike fighters on operations from HMS Queen Elizabeth are honing their skills with the USS Wasp in the Med.

The six Royal Navy handlers from Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, employed as part of the Wasp's flight deck team, are operating with the full range of US Navy and Marine Corps helicopters as well as the tiltrotor MV-22 Osprey.

The USS Wasp has also been used extensively to trial and assess the US and Britain's new F35B – Lightning II Joint Strike Jet Fighters.

The USS Wasp is a multipurpose amphibious assault ship, deployed as part of the Amphibious Ready Group to support maritime and theatre security cooperation efforts in the US 6th Fleet area of operations. 

Working on their decks and experiencing US aircraft can only help us on future operations when we are alongside each other.

Chief Petty Officer Rich Clark

The US 6th Fleet, based out of Naples in Italy, is able to conduct a full spectrum of naval operations, often in partnership with allied, joint and inter-agency partners.

The vessel and her sister ships were the first in the US Navy specifically designed to accommodate Landing Craft Air Cushion vehicles for fast troop movement over the beach and Harrier II jets, which provide close air support for her deployed assault force.

The United States Marine Corps expects to operate its Harriers until 2025.

“Living with one another is good for integration,” said Chief Petty Officer Rich Clark.

“Working on their decks and experiencing US aircraft can only help us on future operations when we are alongside each other.

“Our people are getting a greater awareness of all the different aircraft types there are and an understanding how different platforms work.

“This is the first group of guys who are straight out of training. Some of them have never been on a ship before, so for the younger ones this is a fantastic experience.”

Aircraft handlers like the Royal Navy crew on board the USS Wasp will be at the forefront of the introduction of flight deck operations on board the Navy's two new Queen Elizabeth-Class aircraft carriers.

The two new carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, will operate the short take-off and vertical landing variant of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, with flight trials expected to start in 2018.

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