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One helo of a day

Naval Air Facility El Centro is famed for its large detachments of fixed wing jet aircraft and busy flight line, but when Alan Kenny visited, he found it to be very different to the norm.


AH-1W '165288' 'CA-30' from HMLA-467 based at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina

NAF El Centro (NAFEC) is located to the east of San Diego and over the Santa Rosa Mountains in Southern California. The climate is hot and dry with frequent high winds. The local terrain is mountainous and very flat, so this makes it an ideal environment for training of aircrews and aircraft in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan.

During my visit to the base, there happened to be one of the largest training detachments of helicopters for quite some time. The United States Marine Corps (USMC), British Army (AAC) and Royal Air Force (RAF) were calling NAFEC home. The USMC had the CH-47 'Sea Knight' and AH-1W 'Super Cobra' on detachment there. The AAC had their AH9A Lynx along with AH1 Apaches while the RAF brought their heavy HC2 Chinook.

The CH-47 'Sea Knights' were from Marine Medium Helicopter Training Squadron 164 (HMMT-164) "Knightriders" and are based at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. They fall under the command Marine Aircraft Group 39 (MAG-39) and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW).

The AH-1W 'Super Cobras' were from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 467 (HMLA-467) "Sabers" and are based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. They fall under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 29 (MAG-29) and the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (2nd MAW).

The two HC4 Chinooks were from 7 Squadron and based at RAF Odiham in Hampshire.

The three AAC AH9A Lynx were from 652 Squadron and are based at RAF Guttersloh in Germany. 652 Squadron fall under the command of 1 Regiment.

Sea Knight 'YT/17' heads out from NAF El Centro into the local mountains for training.

The Lynx crew are fully kitted up as they walk in searing heat towards their waiting cab.

Chinook HC4 from 7 Squadron taxies to the south of the airfield to head towards the Mexican border.

ZG914 taxies out to the assigned take off point for the mission.

Two AH9A Lynx head off into the desert for live fire training.

The crew of this Lynx give a wave, while the passenger in the rear prepares to take a photo of me.

Super Cobra from HMLA-467 prepares to touch down in the searing desert heat.

A Super Cobra kicks up dust while the refueling team wait for the AH-1W to land.

HMLA-467 'Sabers' AH-1W from MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina.

The Sea Knight or 'Phrog' has been in United States Marine Corps service since 1964.

A loadmaster looks over to the fuel pit as the Sea Knight taxies in.

All four of the Army Air Corps Apaches stayed under cover.

This old A-6 Intruder is now a fire instructional airframe and isn't fit for flight.

Mission complete.

The ground crew clean the windows of the Lynx cab after returning from the mission.

Good luck to all of the aircrews and thank you to Public Affairs Kris Haugh for organising the visit.

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Filed Under Military Aviation Features.


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