Torpedoes away as helicopter crews ready for carrier mission

Torpedoes raced through Falmouth Bay as the helicopter crews stepped up training to protect the Navy’s most important deployment in a generation.

Aircrew from 820 Naval Air Squadron made the short flight from their base at Culdrose to the nearby bay to launch dummy versions of Sting Ray, the RN’s mainstay lightweight torpedo for the past three decades and more.

It’s carried by Merlins and Wildcats, plus Type 23 frigates such as HMS Kent and Richmond… not just to arm their helicopters, but also to launch from tubes built into the superstructure.

As the principal submarine hunter, Merlin carriers depth charges or four Sting Rays – although the latter will be replaced by a new 21st-Century lightweight torpedo announced in the recent Defence Review.

A drogue parachute slows the torpedo’s entry into the water before, in the event of a genuine threat, it attacks it target with a 100lb explosive charge, racing through the depths at speeds in excess of 50mph.

For the launch trials in Falmouth Bay concrete replaces high explosive and the torpedo is set to float once it’s finished its run, so it can be recovered.

820 is busy practising and training ahead of the Navy’s landmark carrier strike deployment which begins in a matter of weeks.

The entire squadron – seven Merlin Mk2s and 200 air and ground crew – will deploy with HMS Queen Elizabeth, first on a short exercise off Scotland to hone combined skills (Exercise Strike Warrior) before the entire group of warships, auxiliaries and air power heads to the Asia-Pacific region for the remainder of 2021.

It’s the task of 820 to shield the group not just from submarines (working in tandem with the Type 23 frigates as dedicated sub hunters), but also threats on the water and, with the advent of the new Crowsnest variant, to provide long-range airborne early warning for the group… and direct F-35 Lightnings on to target.

Drop. Now – now – now… Torpedo away!

Merlin Mk2 Observer, 820 NAS