A historic Fleet Air Arm squadron was this week reformed to test the latest weapons and sensors.
First established in 1943, the reformed 744 NAS will operate the Crowsnest Merlin for the next year-and-a-half. In their role, 744 will play an instrumental part in testing the Airborne Early Warning helicopter before it becomes operational and is deployed on board the Royal Navy’s two Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.
The squadron will also fly some of the RAF’s Mk.5 and Mk.6 Chinooks, as those helicopters go through the upgrade process.
Now based at Boscombe Down, 744 NAS pools together some of the best aircrew and engineers from each of the armed services. While the squadron last operated in October 1956, it has served in this important developmental role before. Between 1952 and 1954, 744 operated a small number of Dragonfly helicopters from RNAS Eglinton in what was then a pioneering role in helicopter search and rescue. Following that, the squadron had been developing anti-submarine warfare tactics, flying the Gannet.
In 744’s role in training Fleet Air Arm pilots in the Second World War, the squadron also provided pilots for Merchant Aircraft Carriers (converted merchant ships that doubled up as small carriers for convoy escort).
The squadron’s new commanding officer, Commander Jonathan Bird, said: 744 “brings together the operational experience from the majority of defence’s front-line aircraft types and weaponry, to ensure that new aircraft, weapons and upgrades to existing platforms are safe and as fit for purpose as possible.”
744 Squadron’s motto is ‘nemo solus satis sapit’ – no one individual knows enough on their own.