Skip to content
Recruiting now.Explore navy careers

847 NAS bond with French hosts on Far East deployment

12 March 2018
Ok, so it’s not a traditional French sport, but taking part in a tractor haul along the deck of FS Dixmude proved irresistible for British sailors and marines assigned to the assault ship for her Joanne d’Arc deployment.

Two battlefield Wildcats and a 40-strong detachment of air and ground crew supporting the reconnaissance helicopters are embarked on the amphibious ship which is on a five-month mission to the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

Dixmude is home to an eclectic mix of French, Brits, US Marines and Spanish air and round crew.

After completing the basics of landing and taking off from Dixmude’s large flight deck by day and night, the Wildcats from Commando Helicopter Force’s 847 NAS at Yeovilton have steppe up their training by shifting loads slung in giant net bags between vessels in the task group (known as vertical replenishment) and wet winching (lifting stranded sailors/aircrew out of the water) – bread and butter actions to most naval aviators, less so to fliers used to scouring the battlefield looking for enemy forces.

It’s not just the aircrew who are more at home on land than sea; the engineers accompanying the two helicopters have had to find their sea legs, getting used to the slower tempo of maintaining hi-tech aircraft on a ship which moves and shifts around depending on the weather and sea state.

They are keen to help out their French counterparts on the flight deck and so have been helping out the handlers and their ‘yellow dog’ masters (so called because of the bright surcoats they wear) to speed up operations on the flight deck.

When the deck was cleared of helicopters, everyone on board was invited to take part in a tractor pull competition (the vehicles are normally used to shunt aircraft around).

847 provided two of the 22 competing teams, lining up against French sailors, marines, an army Gazelle helicopter team and the US Marine Corps.

The hosts won but the Brits took a creditable third place –

importantly ahead of the USMC and the embarked Gazelle Flight.

Related articles

Navy News Magazine

We bring you the latest news, features and award-winning photographs from the front-line. Navy News has been reporting on all that happens in the Royal Navy and its wider community since 1954.