A new aircraft can be seen in the skies above Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville.
A British Royal Navy HMA2 Wildcat helicopter was flown in in the cargo bay of a Royal Air Force C-17 Globemaster to NAS Jacksonville May 1.
The Wildcat was partially disassembled for the flight from England.
The helicopter and its crew will be operating out of NAS Jacksonville for two weeks training for Exercise Iron Eagle, a drug interdiction operation.
“Our mission for the next two weeks is to do pre-deployment training for airborne use of force counter-narcotics in the Caribbean with the U.S. Coast Guard,” said Lt. Mark Green, of the Royal Navy.
”We are working with the U.S. military to stop drugs coming from South America into North America.”
The Wildcat is the Royal Navy’s maritime attack helicopter.
“The primary role of the helicopter is an attack helicopter where we find and destroy surface ships with two different types of missile systems,” Green said. “For this particular mission set, we find non-compliant vessels, disable those boats and capture the drugs on those boats and hand them over to the U.S.”
This is an annual visit for the Royal Navy.
“We try to come to NAS Jacksonville every year and train with the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron of the U.S. Coast Guard based at Cecil Field,” Green said.
The Royal Navy has 34 crewmembers to support the mission.
After training for two weeks at NAS Jacksonville, the Wildcat and its flight personnel will go to NAS Key West to continue the anti-drug operations in the Caribbean.
While operating at NAS Jacksonville, the Royal Navy will have full access to base facilities.
“While they are staying on base, we are giving them anything they need,” said Doug Chaney, airfield facilities manager for NAS Jacksonville.
That hospitality is certainly appreciated by the British.
“The personnel on NAS Jax and the command have been absolutely fantastic,” Green said. “The facilities here are second to none. Without the ability to stay here at NAS Jax, we wouldn’t be able to complete this mission.”
After approximately four weeks of counter-narcotic operations with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Wildcat and its crew will embark to the Royal Navy ship RFA Mounts Bay (L3008) for a six-month deployment.