The Apache helicopters of Wattisham’s 656 Squadron, 4 Regiment Army Air Corps joined HMS Illustrious off the United Arab Emirates as she took part in Exercise Sea Khanjar. This was the first time UK Apaches have operated in the Gulf, though in the 2011 Libya conflict they hit Col Gaddafi’s forces from HMS Ocean .
The Apaches, personnel and equipment of 656 Squadron arrived on Illustrious to augment the ship’s existing air group, demonstrating how well the Army Air Corps is starting to integrate with navy warships and squadrons – a role that will need to be developed further, especially as the navy’s new carriers come into operation.
Within two days of their arrival the Apaches were ready for their first operational sortie with the ship’s Sea King, Merlin and Lynx helicopters.
Officer Commanding 656 Squadron, Major Piers Lewis, said:“The Royal Navy have been very patient with us learning their way of business. Together, we have proved the superb capability the Apache can deliver when working with the ship, its air surveillance helicopters and the Army and Navy Lynx aircraft.”