Royal Navy: AW159 Wildcat helicopters hunt foes in Norwegian fjord exercise

Source: Royal Navy, Defence Industry Europe

The Royal Navy’s AW159 Wildcat maritime attack helicopters have demonstrated their ability to hunt down and engage enemy forces during a game of cat and mouse in the Norwegian fjords.


Yeovilton-based 815 Naval Air Squadron have been exercising with four of the Royal Navy’s P2000 patrol ships, two Norwegian corvettes and frigate HNoMS Roald Amundsen off Bergen, in one of the world’s most challenging environments, for Exercise Tamber Shield.

Alongside the P2000s, the AW159 Wildcats were tasked with finding and targeting the Skjold-class corvettes amongst the many inlets and narrow waterways of the fjords.



In one particular scenario, HMS Biter and HMS Exploit, part of the Royal Navy’s Coastal Forces Squadron, headed north from Bergen, while fellow P2000s HMS Trumpeter and HMS Blazer headed south to use their skills and expertise to locate the Norwegian vessels before relaying that information to 815 NAS who were charged with making simulated attacks.

Capable of 60 knots, the Skjolds are fast and agile – using their camouflage to blend into the landscape, which their crew knows like the back of their hand.

However, aircrew from 815 NAS were more than up for the challenge, employing newly developed tactics to fend off the fast attack craft threat.

Lieutenant Maxwell Randles-Hall, an 815 NAS Observer, said: “The Norwegian Fjords present a challenging and unforgiving operating area for aircraft.

“As a result, Wildcat crews must effectively employ every sensor and system to succeed in their mission and evade attack.



“The topography gifts a significant advantage to the opposition forces, played by the P2000s and Skolds, so crews must think extremely carefully about their every move, working as a team to methodically neutralise targets.”

Operating as part of the Joint Expeditionary Force – a group of like-minded nations led by the UK – Exercise Tamber Shield provides extremely valuable training for the crews of the P2000s.

Made up of nations including the UK, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Sweden, the JEF reacts to events in northern Europe’s waters, ready to respond to crises and world events.

Lieutenant Sophie Tulloch, HMS Biter’s Commanding Officer, said: “We worked alongside HMS Exploit and an AW159 ildcat helicopter to locate and destroy two of the Skjold Corvette-class ships which are hiding in a fjord.

“We would make our way slowly up the fjord in order to identify them and send off their location to the Wildcat, so it can engage.


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“A challenge from the exercise was for HMS Biter to safely navigate up the fjord. Due to the topography we are able to get quite close to the shoreline and remain in very deep water.”

She added: “The Skjolds are made to navigate within the fjords, they are very fast and have a top speed of 60 knots, whereas our top speed is 22 knots, so it is about having to plan around that and come up with a plan between HMS Biter, HMS Exploit and the Wildcat.

“There is a huge benefit to working with a Wildcat. On board HMS Biter we mainly rely on our lookouts, the capability the Wildcat brings increases the opportunity and possibility of locating the Skjolds.

“They are very hard to spot, they are sneaky and camouflaged. For us it is a very much a real-life scenario in terms of operating in a new area, out of our comfort zone, just with the training that we have.

“It is a very small team and we rely on the capabilities of our people to come up with dynamic solutions to any problem that we face.”



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