Visit to Wattisham, 13th May 2008
This much anticipated visit to Wattisham was a huge success, with everyone enjoying the unprecedented access allowed to the Society members by our hosts.
The organisation of the visit had been a mammoth task in itself, and everyone who attended was very appreciative of the lengths gone to by both the Society, as well as our excellent Army Air Corps hosts.
We assembled near the main gate on a fine sunny morning, and were met by our 3 Regiment hosts and escorted to one of the briefing rooms. Here, we were shown an interesting presentation which covered the present and upcoming structures and operations of 3 Rgt and Wattisham, along with a detailed description and overview of the current roles and future developments concerning the units and aircraft.
Currently, as is the norm, many staff and aircraft from Wattisham were deployed away from base. As well as the ongoing Operation Herrick in Afghanistan, one Squadron was working up in Arizona, whilst another had just deployed this week to the north of England. As well as these, normal training missions were still being flown from Wattisham, so you can begin to appreciate the amount of work being carried out.
After our presentation, we were split into 3 manageable sized groups and escorted to the various displays that had been laid on for us.
One display consisted of a static Apache helicopter for us to wander around and photograph as we pleased. Two engineers were on hand to answer our many questions, as well as describe their job roles and the systems on the helicopters. They were happy to regale us with tales of some of the exploits of the aircraft that have been deployed on Operation Herrick in Afghanistan. It seems that the helicopters have suffered some battle damage through enemy action, but even the most serious incidents did not prevent them returning safely to base. The much more powerful Rolls Royce engines that the Army Air Corps Apaches are fitted with is of major benefit in the extremely hot and high conditions that typify Afghanistan.
The next display consisted of a number of "small arms" weapons, and again the Army personnel were very happy to answer any questions thrown at them. Many of the Society member took the opportunity to handle these weapons, and plenty of them took much glee in their Rambo-esque antics. This display, though not aviation related, was still a very welcome insight into the life of an soldier.
The final hangar display was another Apache helicopter, where again everyone was free to photograph whatever they wanted (on the outside of the aircraft at least). Aircrew were on hand this time to answer questions, and point out many of the salient features of operating what is the most advanced weapons system in the British Army. Some members had the opportunity to have a detailed look in the cockpits, and yet again, all questions asked were expertly answered by our hosts.
Our 3 separate groups then re-joined, and a visit to the waterfront area in front of the hangars followed, where we were able to watch Apache operations, and again take as many photographs as we liked.
As our visit was approaching it's end, we made our way back to our vehicles, past the Wattisham Airfield Museum, where we stopped to have a look at and and photograph the Skeeter and Gazelle helicopters which are present there.
As a thanks to our hosts, we presented them with some portable DVD players, and a selection of DVDs that will be of use when they are deployed away from home.
Again, thanks must go to the staff on 3 Regiment for taking time out to host us, this type of visit goes along way to fostering good relationships with the local population and general public at large.
A run-down on the aircraft noted during the visit:-
|ZJ182||Apache AH1||3/4 Regiment, flightline|
|ZJ183||Apache AH1||3/4 Regiment, hangar 5|
|ZJ187||Apache AH1||3/4 Regiment, hangar 5|
|ZJ190||Apache AH1||3/4 Regiment, hangar 5|
|ZJ191||Apache AH1||3/4 Regiment, flightline|
|ZJ195||Apache AH1||3/4 Regiment, flew|
|ZJ203||Apache AH1||3/4 Regiment, flightline|
|ZJ209||Apache AH1||3/4 Regiment, hangar 5|
|ZJ223||Apache AH1||3/4 Regiment, hangar 5|
|ZJ224||Apache AH1||3/4 Regiment, hangar 5|
|ZJ226||Apache AH1||3/4 Regiment, hangar 4|
|ZJ230||Apache AH1||3/4 Regiment, flew|
|XT614||Scout AH1||Preserved at the main gate|
|XL739||Skeeter AOP12||Pole-mounted at the Wattisham Airfield Museum|
|XX444||Gazelle AH1||Displayed at the Wattisham Airfield Museum|
|XV139||Scout AH1||Derelict near the 23 runway threshold|
|ZH544||Sea King HAR3A||22 Sqn, B Flight|