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The Royal (Navy)
HEINZ prided itself on its legendary 57 varieties.
Few warships have been busier in 2007
Twenty-eight suits HMS spring, summer and autumn,
than HMS Illustrious. And few warships
Illustrious just fi ne. the carrier is again at sea, this
have enjoyed a more cosmopolitan
We’re not talking about a rich time some 40 miles off the
selection of tinned beans and table Northumbrian coast.
year than Britain’s strike carrier.
sauces. Two weeks of work-up have the fi gures and liaise with the
We’re talking about a rich been planned for 1 Sqn – motto: in fl ight deck crew a few feet below
Lusty on work-up – this time with
selection of aircraft, 28 different omnibus princeps, fi rst in all things before giving the go, no-go signal.
types of aircraft from 11 different – so that when they join Lusty in Traffi c lights reveal their
the RAF – in the North Sea.
forces provided by seven different the new year, all the preliminaries decision. On amber, handlers can
nations. have already been accomplished. remove the ties which lash the
All have safely landed upon and This morning two jump jets are jets to the deck and the Harrier
Homer (or ‘Marg’
taken off from the fl ight deck of fl ying, each with the prefi x call can begin taxiing to its take-off
as Lt Kate Hopkins
Britain’s strike carrier in an eight- sign ‘Jedi’ (every squadron has a position.
introduces herself in
month spell unprecedented in the unique identity). Green deck.
this instance, being of
ship’s illustrious (sorry) history. It’s easy to be blasé about such The fi rst Jedi throttles up,
the fairer sex) guides the
Some of the aircraft are old things. I’ve seen Harriers take off there’s a roar outside the window
Jedi around the North Sea
friends: the Merlins of 814 NAS, from a carrier before. I’ve seen and a Harrier lumbers past before
air space (probably best not to
the Harriers of the Naval Strike them land. lifting off the ramp and heading
use the Force here…) via a series
Wing. Normally I’ve been stood on off into the ether.
of ‘waypoints’ which bear the
Others, well others, they’re a walkway overlooking the deck You don’t quite get the noise
name of Simpsons characters.
just plain odd: the US Marine where you can truly appreciate the here. Instead, you get the rumble,
And it’s down to ‘Marg’ to
Corps’ Osprey (the aircraft-cum- raw power of these aircraft. that vibration which shakes
guide our pilot back to Lusty in
helicopter). It’s not something I’ve watched through everything.
fair weather or foul as the sortie
landing simply
Today it’s a more common sight from Flyco – Flying Control, Once the Harriers are out of
defi es all the laws of
on the fl ight deck: Harrier GR7 effectively the carrier’s air traffi c sight, control passes to the bowels
As conversations go, it’s
and GR9s of 1 Squadron RAF. control tower. of the ship and the air traffi c
decidedly one-sided.
Coming alongside No 4 spot
If the sight of jump jets on the And it’s here that you appreciate controllers and fi ghter controllers
The ATC is the only one doing
on the fl ight deck, the RAF pilot
deck of Lusty is commonplace, just what goes into every mission. (Homer and Freddie, respectively)
the talking. The pilot has his mind
brings his jet to a hover, kicking up
the sight of Lusty to the air force Not just combat sorties, but routine in the ops room while Flyco wait
fi xed solely on fi nal approach and
spray from the North Sea below.
aviators is a novelty; for many training fl ights like these. A good for the (don’t say it, don’t say it)
Then there’s that ‘sideways slip’
of the pilots this is the fi rst time two-three hours’ work invariably return of the Jedi (Groan – Ed).
The female voice is clear,
as the Harrier glides horizontally
they’ve fl own aboard a fl at-top. – involving a lot of mathematics to It’s the task of Homer (so
concise, fi rm. (No Dambusters-
across to ‘fl oat’ several feet above
In little more than a couple of get the fuel/payload balance bang called not for poetic or cartoon
esque crackled garble over the
the deck, before dropping down
months, however, these jets will be on, calculating the amount of reasons but because it’s ‘home’
speaker here.)
on to the deck. departed than
the airborne fi st of Magic Carpet, a run-up the jet needs on the deck or ‘homing’) to keep aircraft
The banter and chatter in Flyco
Barely have the hydraulics on the carrier was
sizeable carrier task force exercise before it hurtles into the air off the – military and civilian – apart; it’s
which characterised the past
the landing gear stopped bouncing in the Mediterranean
east of Suez. ski ramp at about 80kts and much the task of Freddie, or perhaps
few minutes is gone. In its place
and the squeal of the brakes died again with Spanish Harriers
Before any pilot can ‘ride the more. Frenchie in this case as the fi ghter
everyone keeps a sharp lookout for
down than the roar of the Pegasus on board once more.
carpet’, he must be qualifi ed to From Flyco, ‘Wings’ – controller is a Gallic offi cer on
the approaching jet.
engine reduces to little more than The Illustrious variety show
take off and land on Lusty. Commander (Air), Cdr Henry exchange, to direct a Harrier on to
And here’s the bit that’s most
a whine. rolls on…
Which is why after a hectic Mitchell – and his team mull over a target.
impressive. Take-off is exhilarating,
And barely had the RAF jets marina Cartoon capers, page 32
International departures
IF 12 months ago someone had community is pretty tight-knit the idea of a ‘coalition Midas, but Illustrious’ team cards listing common phrases, down and got to it. There wasn’t
suggested to Capt Tim Fraser how as well. There are airfi eld’ – managed to ensure the two distinct while the chefs and stewards, sorry a hiccup. We’ve pushed the
cosmopolitan his air force would strong ties between the a British Harrier squadrons fulfi lled their logisticians (catering services boundaries further than ever this
be in 2007, he might not have numerous squadrons. warship obligations. (preparation) and (delivery)), year.”
believed them. Personal connections can break flying “There are subtle differences produced tri-lingual menus. Everyone involved with this
Opportunities for working with the ice and smooth the way in the Allied aircraft. between the Harrier forces. All the There were also cultural nods to multi-national experiment has
Britain’s jump jet fl eet – Joint upper echelons of the military. The greatest aircrew speak English – the Italian our visitors: tapas evenings for the been impressed with the outcome.
Force Harrier – would be limited And so it was that Col Eric challenge was and Spanish pilots are trained Spaniards, hymns in the respective “We’ve often regarded ourselves
with the aircraft heavily committed ‘Beans’ Van Camp (Van Camp fi tting the Italians by the Americans,” says Cdr languages during Sunday services, as a ‘national’ force,” says Cdr
in Afghanistan. is a popular American brand of aboard during Mitchell. and important pipes in the three Mitchell. “We’ve broken the
Harriers are Lusty’s raison tinned beans, continuing our Noble Midas, NATO exercises in “More challenging was working languages. old mould. It’s been a fantastic
d’être. There’s little point having Heinz theme) brought his US the Adriatic. It wasn’t a physical with the maintainers – they know Some things, however, have got opportunity for us and our visitors
a carrier with nothing to carry. It Marine Corps AV8Bs aboard off problem, or a linguistic one. It just roughly what you’re talking about, to be done one way – and one way – all of them want to come back.”
would take, her captain says, “a the Eastern Seaboard during the wasn’t planned. but it’s important to press the only. British pilots count pressure Not everything revolves around
bit of imagination and some great summer. Italian Harriers and their carrier right switches in the right order. in millibars; their Spanish and the fl ight deck on a carrier, of
ground work” to make the most of That really was the icebreaker, were due to be a key part of the Luckily, some of the Italians had Italian counterparts use inches of course, as Capt Fraser stresses:
his ship. paving the way for everything war game. The Garibaldi wasn’t spent some time in the USA and mercury. We fl y ‘true’ headings; “Success is not just down to the
Fortunately, Britain does not which has followed for Lusty this available, so the Italians asked to so spoke English.” Spanish and Italians fl y magnetic aircrew. It’s down to all the ship’s
have a monopoly on the Harrier. year. It proved the theory that fl y off Illustrious instead. Life on board was made slightly headings. company working side-by-side
It’s a British success story. The Lusty’s Commander (Air) Cdr Five days later, they fl ew easier for the Spaniards because “It’s hard enough running with our guests.
Americans fl y it. So do the Italians. Henry Mitchell was keen aboard… joining a carrier already there are three Hispanophones a business meeting in three “This has been my fi rst time
And the Spanish. The Indians. to test: crammed with Spanish jump aboard. Italian speakers were languages. Now imagine the aboard a carrier. The sailors
The Thais too. jets. The Spaniards already had slightly more diffi cult to fi nd, scenario on a busy fl ight deck always impress me. They can turn
And the Harrier a tight programme to meet but the carrier team in the middle of the night – the their hand to anything that’s asked
supporting produced handy consequences of getting things of them. Together, we’ve
language wrong are serious,” Cdr Mitchell made the most of this
explains. year.”
“But everyone knuckled
● Pilots, ground crew and aircraft handlers carry out pre-fl ight checks on No 1 (Fighter) Squadron
Harriers in the North Sea as a Merlin of 814 NAS approaches Illustrious and (above) bunch of fi ve...
A quintet of RAF Harriers roar past Lusty in formation
022-023_NN_Dec new.indd 1 20/11/07 13:42:32
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