Royal Navy helicopter becomes first British aircraft to land on world’s largest warship
The helicopter is deployed with HMS Duncan in the Mediterranean as the Type 45 destroyer leads a NATO security task group in the region.
Duncan is at the head of a force of warships, known as Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2), which patrols the central and eastern Mediterranean protecting its waterways and providing a powerful security presence.
SNMG2 will operate closely with the USS Gerald R Ford’s task group in the coming weeks, and the Wildcat was dispatched to the aircraft carrier for a planning conference ahead of upcoming joint operations.
Royal Navy Commodore Paul Stroude, in command of SNMG2, and his staff were transported by the Wildcat from HMS Duncan to the 100,000-tonne Gerald R Ford, marking a notable milestone as the first British aircraft to land on the aircraft carrier’s vast flight deck.
Wildcat Flight Commander, Lieutenant Sean Bending, said: “As a pilot it is a real privilege to land on an ally’s ship for the first time.
“The ability to fly our aircraft between the different classes and nationalities of ships is key to allowing us to operate effectively together.
“The Ford class aircraft carriers will be in service for at least 50 years so it was extremely important to demonstrate that we can use their deck.”
This first landing demonstrates the ability to work with a new class of ship for Royal Navy aircraft.
“Flying from the deck of a destroyer to a carrier, there is a huge difference in both size and the number of aircraft and people around,” added Lt Bending.
“It is a truly impressive sight to see that much aviation activity being conducted in one place.”
Commodore Paul Stroude Royal Navy, added: “SNMG2 will be operating in close co-operation with the ships of Carrier Strike Group 12 for several months in the Mediterranean.
“This was a vital opportunity to cement our working relationship and to plan the next period of activity.”
It isn’t the first time the Royal Navy has operated with the Gerald R Ford after HMS Northumberland, HMS Defender and RFA Tideforce worked with the ship in the Arctic Circle in June during a security exercise.