The Fleet air arm provides the Royal Navy with a multi-role aviation combat capability able to operate independently, at short
notice in all environments, over sea and land. It has some 6,200 men and women operating approximately 200 combat aircraft
and more than 50 support/training aircraft.
The Sea Harrier FA.2 is a single seat multi-role day/night all-weather aircraft which can be deployed aboard the
RN Invincible class of Aircraft Carriers to project air power in support of UK interests worldwide. The FA.2
(Fighter Attack) is a development of its predecessor the Sea Harrier FRS1 (Fighter/ Reconnaissance/Strike)
concentrating on the avionics and weapons system of the aircraft giving it a much improved air-to-air combat capability,
essential to its main task of providing a carrier group with air defence.
The Lynx is primarily a anti-surface and anti-submarine helicopter operating from frigates and destroyers of the Fleet.
Recently the seaborne Lynx Mk.3s have been upgraded to the Mk.8 standard, acquiring the advanced Central Tactical System and Passive Identification Device.
In addition to the anti-surface Sea Skua missile system the Lynx can be armed with the Sting Ray torpedo and depth charges
for anti-submarine warfare. The aircraft may also be fitted with a machine gun pod.
The Merlin HM Mk.1 is a replacement for the anti-submarine Sea King HAS Mk.6. The Merlin is designed to operate from both
large and small ships' flight decks, in severe
weather and high sea states, by day and night. It can carry four homing torpedoes or depth charges for the ASW role.
The ASaC - Airborne Surveillance and Area Control (previously AEW - Airborne Early Warning) Sea King was rapidly brought into service
post the Falklands conflict when it became clear that organic Airborne Early Warning was an essential part of air power at sea.
The Searchwater radar can detect low flying aircraft trying to attack surface ships under conventional shipborne radar cover.
The platform offers tactical control to the Sea Harrier, and other shore and carrier based aircraft.
In addition to its military taskings, the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm also provide Search and Rescue cover to large sections of the
United Kingdom coastline, 24 hours a day and 365 days per year, typically at 15 minutes notice. Based at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall
and Prestwick in Scotland, Royal Navy Sea King Mk.5 helicopters are constantly available and fly missions that are as varied as
they are far-reaching.
The Sea King Mk.4 is the commando version of the Sea King helicopter. It has 6000lbs lift capacity and is used in direct support
of the Royal Marines. It is able to carry up to 27 troops and has a range of approx 400 miles. It is also able to carry Land Rovers,
105mm guns and air defence missile systems. The Mk4 has a comprehensive defence suite to detect and deter anti-aircraft radar,
missiles and guns.
The Navy uses the Gazelle in the reconnaissance and communications role which it combines with the Lynx attack aircraft
to form 847 squadron in support of the Royal Marines based at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton.
The Lynx Mk.7 is an attack and utility version of the Lynx, operated in support of the Royal Marines in conjunction with the Commando Sea King.
It fires the TOW anti-armour missile which gives an autonomous and flexible response against tanks and armoured personnel carriers
to the Land Force Commander during Amphibious Operations.
Fighter pilots for the Fleet air arm will fly the BAe Hawk at the Advanced Flying Training, before learning to fly
the Harrier at 899 Naval Air Squadron at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton. For this task the squadrons operates
the two-seat Harrier T.8 advanced trainer.
The Jetstream is used to train the all important Observers of the Fleet Air Arm who eventually become the
tacticians of the anti-surface helicopters. To facilitate this training, the Jetstream is fitted with a
nose mounted radar and two navigation consoles for the student and instructor. The jetstream is a fixed
wing aircraft powered by twin gas turbine engines and with spare passenger capacity. There are two variants
in service, T2s, which are used in the observer training role and T3s, which are operated by Heron flight
at Yeovilton for operational support and communications.
Apart from these aircraft the Navy operates the Grob G115D2 basic trainer to assess candidates for further pilot training with the Fleet Air Arm.
792 Naval Air Squadron operates the Mirach 100/5 unmanned high subsonic drones used to test the Sea Dart Missile System fitted to Type 42 Destroyers.
They are also used to test Sidewinder missiles on Royal Navy Sea Harriers and RAF Tornados.
Information and pictures from Royal Navy: Fleet Air Arm official website