HMS Heron (Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton) is one of the Royal Navy’s two principal Fleet Air Arm bases and is one of the busiest military airfields in the UK.
Currently in the process of transitioning helicopter types, it operates around 75 aircraft in both front-line and training squadrons. Its three main aviation elements are:
- The Lynx Wildcat Maritime Force operating the Lynx Mk 8 helicopter, which is being replaced by the maritime version of the Wildcat helicopter.
- The Commando Helicopter Force flying Sea King Mk 4 helicopters, to be replaced by the Merlin Mk 4.
- The Army’s Airborne Reconnaissance Force, equipping with the reconnaissance version of the Wildcat helicopter. The first Army Air Corps unit, 652 Squadron, is operating the helicopter from RNAS Yeovilton. The numbers of Army personnel and Wildcat helicopters will continue to grow until 2018, when 1 Regiment Army Air Corps will reach full strength.
Also flying from RNAS Yeovilton are: the vintage aircraft of the RN Historic Flight; the Navy’s flying grading squadron of Grob trainer aircraft; and the Hawk flight of 736 Squadron.
The air station occupies approximately 1,300 acres. Its 4,000 staff are military personnel, civil servants and supporting contractors. The Royal Naval School of Fighter Control and the Royal Naval School of Aircraft Control are both on site, as is the famous and immensely popular Fleet Air Arm Museum, part of the Fly Navy Heritage Trust.
Once a year, usually in July, RNAS Yeovilton hosts an International Air Day that often attracts in excess of 30,000 visitors.