RNAS Culdrose (HMS Seahawk)

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RNAS Culdrose
Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Helston, Cornwall
Sky over RNAS Culdrose, before the Annual Air Day, showing contrails.
EGDR is located in Cornwall
Location in Cornwall
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Type Royal Naval Air Station
Site information
Owner Ministry of Defence
Operator Royal Navy
Website RNAS Culdrose
Site history
Built 1947 (1947)
In use 1947–present
Airfield information
Identifiers ICAO: EGDR
Elevation 82 metres (269 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
07/25 1,028 metres (3,373 ft) Asphalt
12/30 1,831 metres (6,007 ft) Asphalt
18/36 1,051 metres (3,448 ft) 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 UK, and is the largest helicopter base in Europe.[2] 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 built by John Laing & Son[3] and 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 station's emphasis changed from fixed wing aircraft to rotary wing, although its main role remains largely the same.[4]

2000 onwards

On 18 May 2012, British Airways flight BAW2012 carrying the Olympic Flame, from Athens International Airport, landed at RNAS Culdrose. The aircraft, an Airbus A319 painted yellow and named 'The Firefly', carried dignitaries including Seb Coe, Princess Anne, and David Beckham.[5] 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 in time for the start of the 2012 Summer Olympics.[6] The airbase puts £100 million into the Cornish economy and is the largest single-site employer in Cornwall.[2]

Squadrons based at Culdrose

Sea Kings airborne at RNAS Culdrose

Squadrons currently based at RNAS Culdrose:

736 Naval Air Squadron[2] - Hawk T.1

Airborne threat simulation

The Hawks of 736 NAS provide a maritime aggressor squadron for Royal Navy ships and vessels of other foreign navies, simulating missile attacks and fast jet attacks on warships in the naval exercise areas south and west of Plymouth. The unit is an evolution of the previous 'Fleet Direction and Requirements Unit', and is supported by the defence contractor SERCO.

750 Naval Air Squadron[7] - Avenger T.1

Observer Training

Provides training for the Fleet Air Arm's observers.

771 Naval Air Squadron[2] - Sea King HU.5

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[2] - Merlin HM.1

Carrier Based Anti-Submarine Warfare

820 Naval Air Squadron[2] - Merlin HM.2

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[2] - Merlin HM.2

Merlin Operational Conversion Unit, incorporating OEU flight

829 Naval Air Squadron[2] - Merlin HM.2

829 normally provides up to 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[2] - Sea King ASaC.7

Airborne surveillance and control

849 NAS provides the Royal Navy with airborne early warning radar. 854 NAS & 857 NAS were merged back into 849 NAS in 2014 with the draw-down of the Sea King force and the return of British forces from Afghanistan.

700X Naval Air Squadron

The Royal Navy's first squadron of unmanned aircraft (drones) using ScanEagle aircraft. In 2014 700X Naval Air Squadron was one of the smallest naval units with twelve personnel but numbers could double the following year.[8]

Other units

Maritime Aviation Support Force (MASF)[2]

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.[9]

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.[10]

Merlin Depth Maintenance Facility

W3 hangar MDMF

The Merlin Depth Maintenance Facility (MDMF) performs depth maintenance on AW101 Merlin helicopters[11] 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.[12]

For UK Merlin helicopters depth maintenance is centred on 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.

Former Squadrons based at RNAS Culdrose

700 Naval Air Squadron

The squadron was disbanded on 31 March 2008. With two Merlin helicopters, Squadron 700M carried out trial modifications and developed tactics and operational procedure. The Motto was : "Experienta Docet" – "Experience Teaches"

See also


  1. Airport information for EGDR at World Aero Data. Data current as of October 2006.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 "RNAS Culdrose". Royal Navy. Retrieved 19 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Ritchie, p. 102
  4. RNAS Culdrose History[dead link]
  5. "Olympic torch: Flame arrives in UK for 2012 torch relay". BBC News. 18 May 2012. Retrieved 18 May 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "BBC - Olympic Torch Relay - Land's End to Plymouth". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 12 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "750 Naval Air Squadron". Royal Navy. Retrieved 5 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Royal Navy launches first 'drone' unit". BBC News Cornwall. BBC. Retrieved 29 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. School of Flight Deck Operations Archived 9 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  10. Predannack Airfield Archived 5 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  11. Editor (4 October 2006). "Integrated Merlin Operational Support Goes Live". defencetalk.com. Retrieved 12 September 2015.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Markets". Serco.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • London, Peter, (1999), RNAS Culdrose, Sutton's photographic history of aviation series, Sutton Publishing Ltd, 128pp, Gloucester UK, ISBN 0-7509-2230-3.
  • Ritchie, Berry (1997). The Good Builder: The John Laing Story. James & James.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Wakeham, Geoff, (1997), Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose 1947 - 1997, publ. Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose, 103pp, ISBN 0-9530499-0-6

External links