FLEET AIR ARM AIRCRAFT
Aircrew Suitability training is carried out at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton by 727 Squadron flying the piston engined Grob Tutor. The squadron gives flying training to current serving members of the Royal Navy and civilians who are considering applying to join the Fleet Air Arm as pilots or observers.
Successful FAA applicants, either already serving or straight from the civilian sector are given their first flying experience with 703 Squadron flying the turboprop Grob Prefect T1 aircraft at RAF Barkston Heath. This squadron is responsible for training of all aircrew from the Royal Navy as part of the Defence Elementary Flying Training School. On successfully completing the course the aircrew candidates progress to either helicopter flying training at RAF Shawbury with 705 Squadron or to RAF Valley to learn to fly fast jet aircraft with 72 Squadron RAF.
Helicopter flying training is carried out at the Defence Helicopter Flying School’s No1 Flying Training School at RAF Shawbury using the Eurocopter H135 Juno HT1 helicopter, with 705 Squadron. The squadron, part of the No2 Maritime Air Wing, trains all helicopter aircrew for all three services (pilots, observers/navigators and aircrewmen) in basic and advanced helicopter flying. On successfully completing the course the aircrew advance to either RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset for commando helicopter force training on the Merlin HC3A and HC4 with 846 Squadron or Wildcat AH1 with 847 Squadron; or to 825 Squadron for Wildcat HMA2 training to operate from the Royal Navy frigates and destroyers. Aircrew joining the fleet’s anti-submarine (ASW) fleet go to RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall for their training with 824 Squadron in Merlin HMA2 helicopters and the observers join 750 Squadron flying in the Beechcraft Avenger T1 aircraft – the squadron also trains Weapon System Operators for the RAF’s ASW Poseidon aircraft.
Pilots chosen for training to fly the F35B Thunderbolt II fighter jet from the two Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers go to RAF Valley in Wales to join No72 Squadron RAF who operate Beechcraft Texan T1 turbo-prop training aircraft to be assessed and learn basic fast jet flying. If then suitable they move to No4/25 Squadron RAF also at RAF Valley flying the Hawk T2 fast jet training aircraft. On completing the course the successful pilots join No207 Squadron RAF the F35B operational conversion unit training pilots how to fly and fight the fighter aircraft.
A special training squadron 700X is also based at Culdrose tasked with training operators of British Military Remote Piloted Vehicles –Scan Eagle UAV (unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and Puma drones and conducting operations with the Royal Marines and Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ships.
The Fleet Air Arm front line squadrons consist of 814 and 820 Squadrons flying the Merlin ASW and AEW (airborne Early Warning) helicopters from the aircraft carriers, larger warships and RFAs, 815 and 825 Squadrons flying the Wildcat helicopters from frigate’s, destroyers and RFAs. 845 and 846 Squadrons with Merlin commando assault helicopters and 847 Squadron with Wildcat commando force helicopters. The joint RN/RAF F35B squadron No617 Sqdn RAF operate the Thunderbolt II aircraft form the two strike carriers. A new F35B squadron 809 Squadron will be formed in 2023.