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Royal Navy engineers sharpen their ability rapidly repair aircraft

Royal Navy engineers have sharpened their ability to rapidly repair aircraft during operations around the world.

Portsmouth-based 1710 Naval Air Squadron has no aircraft of its own but is made up of scientists and engineers from across all three services, along with civilians, who specialise in keeping aircraft flying – and providing modifications – while on punishing operations worldwide.

To ensure these specialists are ready for action, the squadron headed to the scenic Bramley Training Area in north Hampshire for Exercise Black Cat.

A retired Lynx helicopter was the squadron’s main focus, carrying out hands-on repairs and offering a valuable opportunity to mimic a deployed aircraft that had taken damage.

This prepared the squadron for the demands of operational engineering, ensuring they can make repairs rapidly under pressure, deal with causalities and potential ambushes by the ‘enemy’.

Ultimately it means the repair section can continue to play their indispensable role in the Royal Navy and across defence, providing rapid repair for UK military aircraft. 

Commander Nicholas Almond, the squadron's commanding officer, underscored the importance of this exercise.

"It's vital for our squadron to prepare for the unpredictability of operational deployments,” he said.

“Our ability to respond quickly and effectively to repair needs is key to sustaining the operational effectiveness of military aviation.”

Our ability to respond quickly and effectively to repair needs is key to sustaining the operational effectiveness of military aviation.

Commander Nicholas Almond

The training not only focused on refining technical skills but also on developing field craft abilities and logistics under challenging conditions, meaning spare parts can be brought to where they are needed on the front line.

Exercise Black Cat simulated the squadron’s support to a damaged aircraft, including battlefield casualty drills and ambush response, to test the squadron's adaptability.

Guided by British Army members of the squadron, the repair section of the 1710 NAS have worked to enhance their skills, hasten their response times, and strengthen team bonds. 

After the successful completion of Exercise Black Cat, 1710 NAS is now returning to its base at HMNB Portsmouth. 

The squadron members carry with them not only improved skills and resilience but also a strengthened sense of camaraderie.

This exercise has ensured that they stand ready to uphold their motto: "Repair, Sustain, Enhance", embodying the essence of their service and their ability to respond.

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