RNAS Yeovilton (HMS Heron)

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RNAS Yeovilton
Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Yeovilton, Somerset
Aerial View - RNAS Yeovilton 2006 (2439197008).jpg
RNAS Yeovilton Airshow in 2006
EGDY is located in Somerset
Location in Somerset
Coordinates 51°00′31″N 002°38′16″W / 51.00861°N 2.63778°W / 51.00861; -2.63778Coordinates: 51°00′31″N 002°38′16″W / 51.00861°N 2.63778°W / 51.00861; -2.63778
Type Royal Naval Air Station
Site information
Owner Ministry of Defence
Operator Royal Navy
Garrison information
Commodore Nick Tindal
Airfield information
Identifiers IATA: YEO, ICAO: EGDY
Elevation 23 metres (75 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
04/22 1,463 metres (4,800 ft) Concrete
09/27 2,310 metres (7,579 ft) Concrete

Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, or RNAS Yeovilton, (IATA: YEOICAO: EGDY) (HMS Heron) is an airfield of the Royal Navy and British Army, sited a few miles north of Yeovil, Somerset. It is one of two active Fleet Air Arm bases (the other being RNAS Culdrose) and is currently home to the Royal Navy Wildcat HMA2 and Army Air Corps Wildcat AH1 helicopters as well as the Royal Navy's Commando Helicopter Force Merlin HC3/3A/i3 and Wildcat AH1 helicopters.

The site consists of 1,000 acres (1.6 sq mi; 4.0 km2) of airfield sites plus ranges and minor estates. Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton is a large multi-role air station with an annual budget of some £61 million, the airfield is also home to the Fleet Air Arm Museum and the station hosts an annual Air Day in July.


In 1938, the potential of the land at Yeovilton for use as an airfield was spotted by Westland Aircraft's chief test pilot Harald Penrose and an offer was made to buy the land, the owners, however – the Ecclesiastical Commissioners of the Church of England – refused to sell it. In 1939, the Admiralty Air Division commandeered 417 acres (169 ha) of the land and work began on the construction of the site. The runways being completed in 1941 despite problems with poor drainage. A main runway of 3,645 ft (1,111 m) and three subsidiary runways each of 3,000 ft (914 m) had been constructed.[1]

Fleet Air Arm Supermarine Seafire X4652 being refuelled by petrol bowser at the Fleet Air Arm airfield at Yeovilton

750 Naval Air Squadron was formed at RNAS Ford on 24 May 1939 from the Royal Navy Observer School, but after Ford was bombed early in the war, it moved to RNAS Yeovilton.[2] They were joined by 751 and 752 Squadrons with the Naval Air Fighter School soon following; in addition Westland Aircraft developed a repair facility at the site. From July 1940, the site was subjected to Luftwaffe bombing on several occasions. 794 Naval Air Squadron was the first to be formed at the base and served to train other squadrons to practise aerial gunnery, and part of one of the runways was marked up as a flight deck to practise landing on an aircraft carrier. 827 Naval Air Squadron was also stationed at Yeovilton operating Fairey Albacores and later Barracudas starting in May 1943, becoming the first squadron to receive Barracudas in any substantial number.[1] Several units which were preparing for embarkation were also stationed at the site during the Second World War, because of pressure on space at the airfield, satellite sites were set up at Charlton Horethorne and Henstridge in 1942. A centre for Air Direction Radar was also established at Speckington Manor on the edge of the airfield.[1]

After the end of the war, Yeovilton became one of the main demobilization centres for the Royal Navy, with many of the men helping to refurbish the runways while they stayed at the base; in 1952, Yeovilton became the shore base for the fleets all-weather fighters. The runways were further extended by Taylor Woodrow in 1952 and 1957 to cope with jet aircraft; in May 1953, it became the headquarters of Flag Officer Flying Training.[3]

BAe Sea Harrier FRS1 of 899 Naval Air Squadron at Yeovilton Naval Air Station in 1982.

During the 1960s, further development work was undertaken, with the School of Fighter Direction returning to the site and the Sea Venoms being replaced by the de Havilland Sea Vixens then in turn by the McDonnell-Douglas Phantom FG1 as a carrier-borne fighter. The 1970s saw the Flag Officer, Naval Air Command (FONAC), transferring from RNAS Lee-on-Solent. Royal Navy fixed wing operations were phased out, and the Phantoms transferred to the RAF, the base remained as the home of the Commando Helicopter Squadrons, using the Wessex HU5 and later the Sea King HC4, and the fixed wing Fleet Requirements and Aircraft Direction Unit (FRADU) and became the main shore base for the Navy's fleet of Sea Harrier FRS1 (and later, FA2). A ski-jump (now removed) was installed to enable practice of ski-jump assisted take-offs.[3]

In the mid 1980s Defence Estates announced that many of the Royal Navy ratings married quarters at RNAS Yeovilton were surplus to requirements, as a result, The Welbeck Estate Group acquired in the nearby town of Ilchester two entire estates of apartments in Hermes Place and Lyster Close that were used by personnel at HMS Heron. These were refurbished and sold to local buyers.[4][5]

Since 1993 the Fleet Air Arm’s Memorial Church has been the Church of St Bartholomew in Yeovilton.[6]

Until April 2006 it was also the home of BAE Sea Harrier FA2 and T8.

In July 2006, Sea King HC4 helicopters from RNAS Yeovilton were deployed to Cyprus on Operation Highbrow to assist with the evacuation of British citizens from Lebanon.[7] Following the closure of RNAS Portland (HMS Osprey) in 1999, HMS Heron became the main shore base for the Lynx fleet.[3]

Current operations[edit]

It is home to Royal Navy Wildcat Maritime Force (WMF), Royal Navy Commando Helicopter Force (CHF), the Army Reconnaissance Force (ARF) and elements of the Royal Navy Fixed Wing Force. RNAS Yeovilton operates over 100 aircraft of four different types and is manned by around 1675 service and 2000 civilian personnel including MoD employees and permanent contractors. Training of aircrew and engineers of resident aircraft types is also carried out at RNAS Yeovilton, it is also the location for the RN Fighter Controller School, training surface based aircraft controllers.

During periods of busy flying training, pressure on the RNAS Yeovilton circuit is relieved by the use of RNAS Merryfield, nearby.

800 Naval Air Squadron, 801 Naval Air Squadron and 899 Naval Air Squadron (training) were disbanded in 2006, and all Harrier operations ceased in 2010 after the Strategic Defence and Security Review. The replacement Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter Aircraft, is now due to enter service in 2018, when it will equip the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. These aircraft will however, be operated from RAF Marham.

Air Day[edit]

The station holds an annual air show when the airfield is open to the public, it includes both a flying and static aircraft display.

Operational Units[edit]


In October 2015, the consolidation of the Army Air Corps for Army 2020 has resulted in a large regular aviation regiment of Wildcat AH1 being based at RNAS Yeovilton. As such, all 62 UK military Wildcats on order will operate from Yeovilton.[9] 1 Regiment has returned from Gütersloh in Germany, and merged with 9 Regiment from Dishforth.[10] The current 652 (Wildcat Fielding) Squadron will become 1 Regiment's Wildcat Operational Conversion Unit. 1 Regiment will form part of the Army Air Corps' Aviation Reconnaissance Force along with 5 Regiment.

The Fleet Air Arm has continued to build up the Commando Helicopter Force again at Yeovilton with the Merlin HC3/3A fleet previously based at RAF Benson transferred from the Royal Air Force. 845 NAS stood up with the Merlin HC3 on 9 July 2015, following on from 846 NAS who received their aircraft on 30 September 2014. 848 NAS temporarily stood up in May 15 with the Sea King HC4 to cover the last remaining Sea King operations while 845 NAS converted to the Merlin.[11] It decommissioned on 24 March 2016.

CHF has now returned to prioritising its main amphibious role in support of Royal Navy/Royal Marines operations after focusing on more than a decade of service in land-locked Afghanistan and prior to that in Iraq. The upgraded and ship-optimised Merlin HC4 and HC4A aircraft will be painted in Royal Navy grey, unlike the green 'Junglie' Sea Kings they replace, the upgraded HC4 and HC4A standard will ensure the aircraft are fully capable of deploying in an maritime/amphibious role. The differences between the current HC3 and (former Denmark-bound) HC3A will be almost eliminated in the HC4/4A upgrade (known as the Merlin Life Sustainment Programme (MLSP)). Prior to the upgrade, 7 of the airframes have been upgraded to the 'interim HC3' and are serving with 846 NAS, these aircraft will receive the full upgrade after the remaining aircraft have been upgraded to the HC4 and HC4A.[11]

Commanding officers[edit]

  • Captain Charles Lindsay Keighly-Peach Royal Navy (1944 - 1945)
  • Captain Walter Alexander Adair OBE Royal Navy (30 May 1949 – 5 Jan 1951)
  • Captain R T Paul CBE Royal Navy (5 Jan 1951 - ?)
  • Commodore Richard Clapp Royal Navy (Nov 1998 - May 2001)
  • Commodore William Covington CBE, Royal Navy (May 2001 - Jul 2003)
  • Commodore Alan Bennett DSC, FRAeS, Royal Navy (Jul 2003 - Nov 2005)
  • Commodore Chris Palmer CBE FRAeS FCMI Royal Navy (Nov 2005 - Jul 2009)
  • Brigadier Mark Noble RM (Aug 2009 - Jun 2011)[12]
  • Commodore Paul Chivers OBE Royal Navy (Jun 2011[13] - ??)
  • Commodore Jock Alexander OBE Royal Navy (Dec 2012 - Sept 2015)
  • Commodore Jon Pentreath Royal Navy (Sept 2015 - April 2017)
  • Commodore Nick Tindal (April 2017 - )

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c Berryman, David (2006). Somerset airfields in the Second World War. Newbury: Countryside Books. pp. 194–219. ISBN 1-85306-864-0. 
  2. ^ "50 Years Not Out for 750 Squadron". Navy News. Retrieved 2010-02-06. 
  3. ^ a b c "RNAS Yeovilton". Helis.com. Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
  4. ^ "Yeovilton / HMS Heron". Airfield Information Exchange. Retrieved 28 December 2014. 
  5. ^ "Projects undertaken since 1969...". Wellbeck Estate Group. Retrieved 28 December 2014. 
  6. ^ "St Bartholomew’s Church, Yeovilton" (PDF). Cloudobservers. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  7. ^ "Helicopters go to aid evacuation". BBC News. 2006-07-18. Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "RNAS Yeovilton". Royal Navy. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  9. ^ "DESider, October 2014, Issue 77" (PDF). www.gov.uk. Defence Equipment & Support. Retrieved 2015-05-30. 
  10. ^ "Army 2020 Brochure" (PDF). British Army. Retrieved 2015-05-15. 
  11. ^ a b "The Past, Present and Future of the 'Junglie'". forces.tv. UK Government. 
  12. ^ "RNAS Yeovilton's Commanding Officer meets with council chairman". Yeovil Express. 29 October 2009. 
  13. ^ "RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset gets new commanding officer". BBC. 8 June 2011. 


  • Mike Verier Yeovilton: Defenders of the Fleet, 1991, Osprey Superbase Series no. 22, 128pp, ISBN 1-85532-138-6

External links[edit]