Navy aircrew from RNAS Culdrose have returned home from Libya after paving the way for helicopter strikes against Colonel Gaddafi’s forces.

Nearly 50 members of 857 squadron touched down at Culdrose after four months away, flying over Libya in support of NATO.

Using two mark 7 Sea King helicopters, crews flew almost 100 operational sorties over Libya – all at night and usually lasting around three hours. In one month alone, the helicopters were airborne for nearly 150 hours.

The squadron only returned from Afghanistan in December, where it proved vital in large drugs busts and surveillance missions.

The squadron was only due to go to sea for around six weeks in the spring, to prove the UK's new response force of ships and aircraft were ready.

But in late May it was ordered to support operations off Libya and all the people, kit and helicopters were shifted to the 20,000 tonne helicopter carrier HMS Ocean. The mission was to clear a path for the Apaches – finding safe routes in and out of Libya without being spotted. They also fed back real-time information about ground movements in Libya, passing vital information back to headquarters in Britain and at NATO for analysis.

  • The full story will appear in next Wednesday’s Packet.