RNAS Yeovilton (HMS Heron)

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RNAS Yeovilton

Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg

Yeovil, Somerset
EGDY is located in Somerset
EGDY
EGDY
Location in Somerset
Type Royal Naval Air Station
Site information
Owner Ministry of Defence
Operator Royal Navy
Airfield information
Identifiers IATA: YEO, ICAO: EGDY,
Elevation: 23 metres (75 ft) AMSL
Runways
Direction Length and surface
04/22 1,463 metres (4,800 ft) Concrete
09/27 2,310 metres (7,579 ft) Concrete
Radio: Yeovilton Approach - 123.300 (Mhz), Yeovilton Tower - 120.800 (Mhz), Yeovilton Ground - 122.100 (Mhz), Yeovilton Radar - 127.350 (Mhz)

Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, or RNAS Yeovilton, (IATA: YEOICAO: EGDY) (HMS Heron) is an airfield of the Royal Navy, sited a few miles north of Yeovil, Somerset. It is one of two active Fleet Air Arm bases (the other being RNAS Culdrose) and is currently home to the Royal Navy's Westland Lynx helicopters and the Commando Helicopter Force Westland Sea King HC4.

The site consists of 1,000 acres (1.563 sq mi; 4.047 km2) of airfield sites plus ranges and minor estates. Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton is a large multi-role air station with an annual budget of some £61 million. The airfield is also home to the Fleet Air Arm Museum and the station hosts an annual Air Day.

History[edit]

BAe Sea Harrier FRS1 of 899 Naval Air Squadron at Yeovilton Naval Air Station in 1982.

In 1938, the potential of the land at Yeovilton for use as an airfield was spotted by Westland Aircraft's chief test pilot Harald Penrose and an offer was made to buy the land. The owners, however – the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of the Church of England – refused to sell it. In 1939, the Admiralty Air Division commandeered 417 acres (169 ha) of the land and work began on the construction of the site. The runways being completed in 1941 despite problems with poor drainage. A main runway of 3,645 ft (1,111 m) and three subsidiary runways each of 3,000 ft (914 m) had been constructed.[1]

750 Naval Air Squadron was formed at RNAS Ford on 24 May 1939 from the Royal Navy Observer School, but after Ford was bombed early in the war, it moved to RNAS Yeovilton.[2] They were joined by 751 and 752 Squadrons with the Naval Air Fighter School soon following. In addition Westland Aircraft developed a repair facility at the site. From July 1940, the site was subjected to Luftwaffe bombing on several occasions. 794 Naval Air Squadron was the first to be formed at the base and served to train other squadrons to practice aerial gunnery, and part of one of the runways was marked up as a flight deck to practice landing on an aircraft carrier. 827 Naval Air Squadron was also stationed at Yeovilton operating Fairey Albacores and later Barracudas starting in May 1943, becoming the first squadron to receive Barracudas in any substantial number.[1] Several units which were preparing for embarkation were also stationed at the site during the Second World War. Because of pressure on space at the airfield, satellite sites were set up at Charlton Horethorne and Henstridge in 1942. A centre for Air Direction Radar was also established at Speckington Manor on the edge of the airfield.[1]

After the end of the war, Yeovilton became one of the main demobilization centres for the Royal Navy, with many of the men helping to refurbish the runways while they stayed at the base. In 1952, Yeovilton became the shore base for the fleets all-weather fighters. The runways were further extended by Taylor Woodrow in 1952 and 1957 to cope with jet aircraft. In May 1953, it became the headquarters of Flag Officer Flying Training.[3]

During the 1960s, further development work was undertaken, with the School of Fighter Direction returning to the site and the Sea Venoms being replaced by the de Havilland Sea Vixens then in turn by the McDonnell-Douglas Phantom FG.1 as a carrier-borne fighter. The 1970s saw the Flag Officer, Naval Air Command (FONAC), transferring from RNAS Lee-on-Solent. Royal Navy fixed wing operations were phased out, and the Phantoms transferred to the RAF. The base remained as the home of the Commando Helicopter Squadrons, using the Wessex HU.5 and later the Sea King HC.4, and the fixed wing Fleet Requirements and Aircraft Direction Unit (FRADU) and became the main shore base for the Navy's fleet of Sea Harrier FRS.1 (and later, FA.2s). A ski-jump (now removed) was installed to enable practice of ski-jump assisted take-offs.[3]

In July 2006, Sea King HC.4 helicopters from RNAS Yeovilton were deployed to Cyprus on Operation Highbrow to assist with the evacuation of British citizens from Lebanon.[4] Following the closure of RNAS Portland (HMS Osprey) in 1999, HMS Heron became the main shore base for the Lynx fleet.[3]

Since 1993 the Fleet Air Arm’s Memorial Church has been the Church of St Bartholomew in Yeovilton.[5]

Current operations[edit]

It is home to Royal Navy (RN) Lynx Helicopter Force (LHF) and RN Commando Helicopter Force (CHF). Until April 2006 it was also the home of BAE Sea Harrier FA2's and T8's . RNAS Yeovilton operates over 100 aircraft of four different types and is manned by around 1675 service and 2000 civilian personnel including MoD employees and permanent contractors. Training of aircrew and engineers of resident aircraft types is also carried out at Yeovilton. It is also the location for the RN Fighter Controller School, training surface based aircraft controllers.

During periods of busy flying training, pressure on the Yeovilton circuit is relieved by the use of RNAS Merryfield, nearby.

800 Naval Air Squadron, 801 Naval Air Squadron and 899 Naval Air Squadron (training) were disbanded in 2006, and all Harrier operations ceased in 2010 after the Strategic Defence and Security Review. The replacement Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft, is now due to enter service in 2018, when it will equip the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. These aircraft will however, be operated from RAF Marham.

Air Day[edit]

The station holds an annual air show when the airfield is open to the public. It includes both a flying and static aircraft display.

Operations Units[edit]

Commanders[edit]

  • Brigadier Mark Noble RM (Oct 2009 - Jun 2011)[6]
  • Commodore Paul Chivers OBE RN (Jun 2011[7] - ??)
  • Commodore Jock Alexander RN

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Berryman, David (2006). Somerset airfields in the Second World War. Newbury: Countryside Books. pp. 194–219. ISBN 1-85306-864-0. 
  2. ^ "50 Years Not Out for 750 Squadron". Navy News. Retrieved 2010-02-06. 
  3. ^ a b c "RNAS Yeovilton". Helis.com. Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
  4. ^ "Helicopters go to aid evacuation". BBC News. 2006-07-18. Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
  5. ^ "St Bartholomew’s Church, Yeovilton". Cloudobservers. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  6. ^ "RNAS Yeovilton's Commanding Officer meets with council chairman". Yeovil Express. 29 October 2009. 
  7. ^ "RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset gets new commanding officer". BBC. 8 June 2011. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Mike Verier Yeovilton: Defenders of the Fleet, 1991, Osprey Superbase Series no. 22, 128pp, ISBN 1-85532-138-6

External links[edit]