Royal Navy Fleet Amphibious Flagship HMS Bulwark has waved farewell to a long-serving military helicopter – the ‘Junglie’ Sea King Mark 4 for the very last time.
The final landing onto the flight deck at sea took place off the SW coast 36 years after a ‘Junglie’ Sea King landed on her namesake Commando Carrier for the very first time.
The Sea King Mark 4 – wearing its distinctive dark camouflage and nicknamed the Junglie because it is designed for operations over jungle and similar environments, is scheduled to cease all flying and leave operational service (Monday, 21 March 2016).
Several of these aircraft will say a final farewell with a tribute flight in formation over the south west, starting in then morning from Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in Somerset and also flying over Devon and Cornwall.
Just before this two aircraft of 848 Naval Air Squadron from RNAS Yeovilton paid a short visit to HMS Bulwark as she was operating off the Devon coast, representing the final ever landing of this type of helicopter at sea.
Captain James Parkin, the captain of HMS Bulwark said: “The ‘Junglie’ Sea King has given fantastic service to the British Armed Forces over the last 36 years all over the world, ranging from the Falklands War, through Bosnia and Northern Ireland, and in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s been great to see a ‘Junglie’ Sea King at sea for one final time, and I look forward to the ‘Junglie’ Merlins becoming just as familiar a sight on our deck in the future.”
Air Traffic Control Officer Lieutenant Steph McInnes from Glasgow said, “We’ve had a fantastic couple of weeks of training and it’s been great to see both the first Bulwark deck landing of a Junglie Merlin and a real honour to help say goodbye to the Junglie Sea King.”
The visit was particularly poignant, not only because the very first deck landing at sea by a ‘Junglie’ in January 1980 was to the previous HMS Bulwark (the 1948-built Commando Carrier known as the ‘Rusty B’) just before the ship retired from the Fleet, but also because the current HMS Bulwark saw her first ever deck landing of the new type of ‘Junglie,’ the Royal Navy’s new Merlin Mark 3, only last week.
HMS Bulwark has just completed Exercise “South West Sword”, an intensive two week training period for the United Kingdom’s High Readiness Amphibious Forces. During the period numerous Wildcat, Merlin and Chinook helicopters completed over 250 day and night deck landings and the Royal Marines in the ship’s Landing Craft were a familiar sight on a number of Cornish beaches. HMS BULWARK has now returned to Plymouth for a short period of maintenance before her participation in the large scale Anglo-French Exercise “Griffin Strike” next month.
Based in HM Naval Base, Devonport, the ship is one of the Royal Navy’s two amphibious assault command and control ships. She has a ship’s company of 350, a quarter of who are made up from 4 Assault Squadron Royal Marines. The ship is designed to carry up to 225 marines in dedicated accommodation for long periods and another 500 for short periods.
A large floodable dock holds four large landing craft – with another four carried on davits on the ship’s side. The larger craft can carry up to 120 troops or a Challenger 2 main battle tank. For the humanitarian mission, they have been loaded with lifejackets, water, food, medical supplies and shelter.
HMS Bulwark is retained at high readiness for contingent operations – whether combat operations, providing humanitarian assistance or disaster relief, remaining at five-days notice to deploy worldwide.