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RNAS Culdrose

Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.png

File:HMS Seahawk.png
Sky over RNAS Culdrose, before the Annual Air Day, showing contrails.
Airport type Military
Operator Royal Navy
Location Helston, Cornwall
Elevation AMSL 268 ft / 82 m
Coordinates 50°05′10″N 05°15′21″W / 50.08611°N 5.25583°W / 50.08611; -5.25583Coordinates: 50°05′10″N 05°15′21″W / 50.08611°N 5.25583°W / 50.08611; -5.25583
Website RNAS Culdrose

Lua error in Module:Location_map at line 510: Unable to find the specified location map definition: "Module:Location map/data/Cornwall" does not exist.Location in Cornwall

Direction Length Surface
m ft
07/25 1,028 3,372 Asphalt
12/30 1,831 6,006 Asphalt
18/36 1,051 3,448 Asphalt
Sources: World Aero Data[1]

Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose (RNAS Culdrose, also known as HMS Seahawk; ICAO: EGDR) is a Royal Navy airbase near Helston on the Lizard Peninsula of Cornwall. It currently has three major roles: serving the Fleet Air Arm's front line Sea King and Merlin helicopter squadrons; providing search and rescue for the South West region; and training divers for the Royal Navy.


Admiralty surveyors first started preliminary surveys of land near Helston in 1942. RNAS Culdrose was commissioned as HMS Seahawk five years after these initial surveys. The station was originally designed to be a wartime airfield lasting about ten years.

The initial plans were for Culdrose to serve as a Naval Fighting School, it soon developed other roles. These varied roles included such things as the trials of the Navy's first jets, training of airbone early warning crews and as a home base for carrier based aircraft. Over the years the stations emphasis changed from fixed wing aircraft to rotary wing, although its main role remains largely the same.[2]

On 18 May 2012, British Airways flight BAW2012 carrying the Olympic Flame, from Athens International Airport, landed at RNAS Culdrose. The aircraft, an Airbus G-EUPC and known as 'The Firefly', carried dignitaries including Seb Coe, Princess Anne, and David Beckham.[3] The following day the Olympic Flame started its first leg from Land's End, through Cornwall, to Plymouth. Its final destination was the Olympic Stadium (London)|Olympic Stadium in time for the start of the 2012 Summer Olympics.[4]

Squadrons based at Culdrose

Sea Kings airborne at RNAS Culdrose

Squadrons currently based at RNAS Culdrose[5]

750 Naval Air Squadron

King Air

Observer Training

Provides training for the Fleet Air Arm's observers.

771 Naval Air Squadron

Sea King HU5

Search & Rescue

771 NAS is responsible for search and rescue in Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and the western English Channel, in total an area of approximately 200 nmi (370 km; 230 mi). It also administers the Sea Kings on detachment at HMS Gannet.

814 Naval Air Squadron

Merlin HM1

Carrier Based Anti-Submarine Warfare

820 Naval Air Squadron

Merlin HM1

Carrier Based Anti-Submarine Warfare

Equipped with a Merlin helicopter, fitted with an advanced sensor suite of active/passive sonics, Orange Reaper Electronic Support Measures and Blue Kestrel radar, 820 NAS provides a strong force in under-water warfare and anti-surface unit warfare. Its various roles include protecting the Royal Navy against surface and sub-surface threats, command and control, transport, evacuation and Search and Rescue capabilities.

824 Naval Air Squadron

Merlin HM1

Merlin training, incorporating OEU flight

829 Naval Air Squadron

Merlin HM1

829 Naval Air Squadron is a squadron of the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm. It operates the AgustaWestland EH101 Merlin helicopter, providing six "flights" capable of deploying with the following Type 23 frigates: HM Ships Somerset, Lancaster, Monmouth, Montrose, Westminster, Northumberland, Kent, Richmond, and Portland.

849 Naval Air Squadron

Sea King Mk7

Airborne surveillance and control

849 NAS provides the Royal Navy with airborne early warning radar.

854 Naval Air Squadron

Sea King Mk7

Airborne surveillance and control

857 Naval Air Squadron

Sea King Mk7

Airborne surveillance and control

Other units

Maritime Aviation Support Force (MASF)

The MASF was established in December 2007 to provide suitably qualified specialist officers and ratings to man, operate and maintain all Royal Naval controlled systems in all aviation capable platforms in both the Royal Navy and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. The concept is to provide a 'one-stop shop' to meet the personnel requirements to support naval aviation operations worldwide. Put more simply, MASF provides tailored manning for the Rotary Wing of the Fleet Air Arm. They operate mainly on RFA Argus - providing roughly 50% of the ships company (not including medical staff when embarked). Although MASF HQ is located at RNAS Culdrose they are seen as a separate unit from the rest of the base and once commissioned in the latter part of 2010 all junior ratings will start wearing MASF on their seamen caps rather than the current HMS Seahawk.

Motto: Auxilio Ad Alta (Reaching The Heights With Help)

File:SFDO dummy deck.jpg

A dummy deck laid out to practice aircraft handling and manoeuvring in a confined space

RN School of Flight Deck Operations

The Royal Naval School of Flight Deck Operations provides professional training for all naval aircraft handlers. The school also trains other Navy personnel and personnel from the RAF and Army who will be involved in operating aircraft at sea.

Trainees are trained in activities they will be required to carry out during their career, such as tackling aircraft fires and aircraft deck handling. Equipment used includes; mock-up can be produced and adjusted at the instructors control and the "Dummy Deck", a full-sized replica of an Invincible class aircraft carrier's deck allowing trainees to practice their roles in realistic environments, experiencing training with live aircraft with reduced risk and danger compared to operating on a real aircraft carrier.[6]

Motto: Nostris in Manibus Tuti (Safe In our Hands)

Merlin Training Facility

The Merlin Training Facility (MTF) is part of 824 Sqn, and is a first in that it encompasses pilot, observer, aircrewman and engineering training under one roof. The facility comprises a Cockpit Dynamic Simulator (CDS), 3 Rear Crew Trainers (RCT), 6 Part Task Trainers (PTT), computer based training (CBT) classrooms, a Mechanical Systems Trainer (MST) and a Weapon Systems Trainer (WST).

Fleet Requirements Air Direction Unit (FRADU)

FRADU is operated by the contractor Serco Defence and Aerospace as part of the RN MAC 2004, using 13 BAE Hawk T1 advanced jet trainer aircraft on lease to the Royal Navy from the RAF and based at RNAS Culdrose. Two of these aircraft are permanently detached to Naval Flying Standards Flight (Fixed Wing) at RNAS Yeovilton where they are flown by RN pilots, but maintained by Serco engineers.

Engineering Training Section

The Engineering Training Section (ETS) at RNAS Culdrose is a small unit of the Air Engineering Department that is dedicated to the instruction of Sea King and generic air engineering training.

The primary task of the ETS is to train sufficient air engineering personnel to enable the front line to achieve operational capability. It comprises approximately 20 personnel including both service and civilian instructors and is headed by a lieutenant who is responsible to Commander of Air Engineering.

Naval Flying Standards Flight (Rotary Wing)

All rotary wing (helicopter) pilots, observers and aircrewmen are assessed annually by NFSF(RW) examiners. This covers all helicopter squadrons at RNAS Yeovilton as well as Culdrose. The assessment consists of a ground exam and a check flight, and may also occur if a squadron has referred them to NFSF(RW).

Predannack Airfield

RNAS Culdrose has a satellite airfield at Predannack which it uses primarily as a relief landing ground for helicopter pilot training; it also houses a small arms range and aircraft fire fighting facilities.[7]

Merlin Depth Maintenance Facility

W3 hangar MDMF

W3 hangar MDMF

The Merlin Depth Maintenance Facility (MDMF) performs depth maintenance on AW101 Merlin helicopters[8] of the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. MDMF is located at RNAS Culdrose, and is a partnership between the UK Ministry of Defence, AgustaWestland, Serco and Lockheed Martin.[9]

For UK Merlin helicopters depth maintenance is centred around a 3 year cycle. MDMF is based upon a pulse line system, similar to a production line; each Merlin "pulses" through 9 phases in turn - removal of major components, inspection, structural repair, fault rectification (3 phases), rebuild, systems test and flight test.

See also


  • Peter London RNAS Culdrose, (1999), Sutton's photographic history of aviation series, Sutton Publishing Ltd, 128pp, Gloucester UK, ISBN 0-7509-2230-3.
  • Geoff Wakeham Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose 1947 - 1997, (1997), publ. Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, 103pp, ISBN 0-9530499-0-6

External links

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