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Culdrose turns into land-based aircraft carrier for ten days

14 November 2017
Until next Thursday, fliers at Culdrose are squeezing in more than 600 hours of fast jet, turbo-prop and whirlybird action as the Fleet Air Arm's Cornish air station pretends it's a living, breathing and fighting aircraft carrier.

Exercise Kernow - Cornish for 'Cornwall' - Flag turns the Lizard peninsula base into fictional flat-top HMS Seahawk.

The base - which has billed itself as 'HMS Queen Elizabeth on land' in preparation for the new carrier entering service - is taking that concept to the next level.

In true gunboat diplomacy style, the carrier has been sent in to help the people of Redruvia, threatened by its tubthumping neighbour Camberland.

Kernow Flag is the perfect way to prove that we're 'carrier-ready': flying over 600 hours around the clock.

Captain Dan Stembridge ADC

Until the end of next week, squadrons and many air station personnel are treating the Helston base as a 'stone carrier', with an imaginary sea around Culdrose. It means eating, sleeping and working within the confines of the base - and, above all, a lot of flying.

All Culdrose's aircraft and personnel have a part to play in either training sailors to serve aboard Queen Elizabeth and her sister Prince of Wales: flight deck handlers, fire-fighters, flight safety equipment experts, helicopter pilots and observers and fast jet pilots.

The Merlin Mk2s are the guardians of the new flagships against submarine attack, the veteran Bagger Sea Kings are the forerunners of Merlin Crowsnest which arrives next year and will act as the carriers' long-range eyes, looking for incoming enemy aircraft and surface ships.

Merlin Mk2s, Sea King Mk 7s, Hawk Jets and King Air Avengers all lifted off from Culdrose to simulate the mass deployment of aircraft on to a carrier... and a short while later touched own on the 'flight deck' of 'HMS Seahawk', the beginning of round-the-clock operations which will see aircrew collectively clock up more than 600 hours' flying (when typically they'd only perhaps get in eight to ten hours individually). 

"Culdrose is essential to the delivery of the nation's carrier strike capability - and for us to be able to deliver our part in this, we need to make sure that we have the right skill and mind-sets for aircraft carrier operations," explained Capt Dan Stembridge ADC, Culdrose's Commanding Officer.

"Kernow Flag is the perfect way to prove that we're 'carrier-ready': flying over 600 hours around the clock, in five different aircraft type, operating with ships, submarines and other aircraft in order to prove our carrier abilities.

"Culdrose will be operating just like we will do on board HMS Queen Elizabeth. The exercise will test the whole air station from engineering to the supply chain, right up to the front end of flying."

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