903 EAW Sea King Airborne Surveillance and Control (SKASaC)
Sea King Airborne Surveillance and Control (SKASaC)
The Sea King Mk7 Airborne Surveillance and Control helicopters (SKASaC), from Cornwall-based 854 and 857 Naval Air Squadrons have been deployed to Afghanistan in support of Op HERRICK since April 2009. Traditionally known as the “The Baggers” due to the large radar ‘bag’ that hangs from the aircraft side, they share the commitment equally between both Squadrons; each takes responsibility for 12 months while the other upholds its more traditional sea-going role maintaining the Force’s Maritime Operational Capability. An individual would expect to complete 6 months of a two year front-line tour in Afghanistan.
A force of 30, highly trained, Air Engineering Technicians ensure that the 3 SKASaC aircraft are ready 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to fulfil their operational commitment. They operate in two teams, each working 12 hours a day, every day for the duration of their tour before returning to the UK for some well earned rest. At present, 854 Naval Air Squadron have 11 aircrew flying and operating the helicopters in Afghanistan. A crew consists of a pilot, a Mission Commander and a Tactical Control Officer; with the missions regularly exceeding 7 hours and temperatures often exceeding 45°C in the summer; days are long, busy and hot.
The SKASaC radar is a multi environment sensor. Although originally conceived for employment in the traditional role providing the ‘Eyes of the Fleet’, the radar has land and air surveillance utility. Crews are trained to operate in all environments; Afghanistan is land locked and there is no Air to Air threat so it is the Ground Movement Target Indication (GMTI) mode of the radar that has come into its own. It provides wide area surveillance of the Area of Operations in order to support the ground forces.
The crew will fly the aircraft to the far reaches of the region to gain the optimum “picture”. The SKASaC “paints” this picture of movement on the ground and informs Ground Forces of normal “pattern of life” activity of the local population thus enabling the identification of the “presence of the abnormal”. This allows ground forces to specifically tailor their missions and position themselves accordingly to put a squeeze on insurgent supply routes.
The SKASaC Force has an exclusive team of Intelligence Analysts who capture every detail from each mission to build a long-term picture of the Insurgent supply routes. SKASaC operates closely with both UK and US forces, constantly striving to intercept these routes. This strangling of the insurgency lifelines dramatically reduces their re-supply capability hence crippling their efforts on the front-line
For more information, please visit www.royal-navy.mod.uk