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HMS Ark Royal R07

25-29 June 1988

The following article first appeared in the Malta Aviation Yearbook 1989.

Early in June a Royal Navy six-ship Task Group headed by the Flagship HMS Ark Royal steamed out of Portsmouth to take part in OUTBACK'88 which would take it to the Far East and Australia. Apart from Ark Royal the group included the Type 42 destroyer HMS Edinburgh, on board which the Duke of York was serving, and the frigate HMS Sirius. The Royal Fleet Auxiliaries Fort Grange, a multi-purpose stores ship, and the tankers Olwen and Orangeleaf provided support. The six ships with their 22 aircraft - Sea Harriers and Lynx helicopters - and over 2,000 men sailed 30,000 miles before returning to the UK in time for Christmas.

In the eastern Atlantic the group was soon engaged in exercise JOLLY ROGER national ASW exercise involving submarines and maritime patrol aircraft. Then Sea Harriers from 810 Squadron visited Spain and flew in exercise against Spanish Mirage Ills and AV-8Bs. After Spain, the Task Group divided in two. HMS Sirius and RFA Orangeleaf went to Augusta in Sicily. The other four HM Ships Ark Royal and Edinburgh together with RFAs Olwen and Fort Grange continued through the Mediterranean to Malta after calling at Gibraltar. The Edinburgh detached to escort HMY Britannia from Palermo to Naples and the remaining ships exercised south of Minorca with units of the French and Italian navies, including the Italian aircraft-carrier INS Garibaldi.

Malta Visit

In Malta attempts were made by workers, members of the General Workers Union, to block the entrance to Grand Harbour, Valletta because of Ark Royal’s nuclear capability. It was decided that the aircraft carrier, the destroyer and the two RFAs anchor in St. Paul's Bay, seven miles away on 25th June. Despite the change in plan, large crowds turned out to provide a typical Maltese welcome.

A number of helicopter visits to Luqa were made during the visit of Ark Royal and Edinburgh. First indication of the carrier's proximity to Malta came on Friday, 24th June when two Sea Kings landed in the parade ground of No 2 Site (AFM Headquarters), one at about 9.30pm and the second at 11.30pm. The next day, two Sea Kings HC.4s of 845 Squadron lifted a party of local journalists out of No 2 Site parade ground at 6.47am and transported them to Ark Royal off Malta.

The two Sea Kings took off from their mother ship at 6am and overshot runway 32, then turning right to land at the parade ground. The helicopters returned to Luqa at 9.16am after taking off from the ship at St Paul's Bay. A Sea King HAS 5 of 820 Squadron paid a visit to the parade ground on Sunday morning, 26th June, taking off at about 10.55am. Another Sea King was observed carrying a van slung underneath it to Ark Royal. Possibly this had to do with ll Ark Royal seamen who cycled all the way from Portsmouth to Malta to raise money for charity.

Other Sea King visits to AFM Headquarters are known to have taken place. The Lynx on board HMS Edinburgh paid two morning visits to AFM Headquarters on 29th June, before departing with the ships. This was the first visit to Luqa by a Lynx helicopter. The ships received a spectacular send-off by an armada of small boats. A Lynx helicopter from HMS Edinburgh with a white ensign slung underneath saluted the public over St Paul's Bay. On leaving Malta, the Task Group took part in another exercise with RAF Nimrods and Buccaneers from RAF Akrotiri.

The Group then continued east through the Suez Canal and across the Indian Ocean. In the South China Seas it participated in a joint exercise with the Sultan of Brunei's armed forces. Two exercises were also planned with Britain's partners in the Five-Power Defence Arrangements Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore. The six ships took part in the Australian Bicentennial naval review on 1 October. Sea Harriers from Ark Royal took part in the air show at Richmond air base. The Task Group returned to the UK around Christmas time.

Aircraft seen on HMS Ark Royal during her visit to Malta 25-29th June, 1988.

Sea Harrier FRS.1 XZ494/004/R, XZ498/001/R, ZA176/007-R, ZA193/003/R, ZD607/006, ZD609/000/R, ZD612/002/R, ZD615/005/R 801 The Squadron badge consisting of a winged trident was carried on the fin of each aircraft.
Sea King HC 4 ZE428/D-R, ZF117/G-R 845  
Sea King HAS 5 XV643/015* 820 Squadron's badge not carried on the helicopters. *Made a heavy landing in the sea on 23 June 1988 after a technical failure. The pilot managed to lift off again and recovered the helicopter to Ark Royal.
Sea King HAS 5 XZ579/017, ZD630/013, ZD631/019, ZD633/012, ZE419/014, 820  
Sea King AEW 2 XV649/183/R, XV672/182, XV697/184/R 849 The Squadron's badge consisting of an eye upon a winged streak of lightning was on the forward fuselage on all the helicopters.
Lynx HAS 3 XZ689/411/EB 815 On board HMS Edinburgh.


08 Jun 1993

BAe Sea Harrier FRS.1 ZD581/R-000, ZD607/R-001, XZ492/R-002, ZE694/R-003, ZD614/R-004, ZE692/R-005 801 Based at RNAS Yeovilton.
Sea King AEW 2 XV650/R-182, XV672/R-183, XV649/R-184 849 “B(ee)” flight, based at RNAS Culdrose.
Sea King HC 4 ZD478/VN, ZF117/VK 846 Landed at Luqa to pick up media representatives. Based at RNAS Yeovilton.

01 Aug 1994

BAe Sea Harrier FRS.1 ZD581/000, ZD607/001, ZD614/002, ZE693/003 ZD610/004 801  
Sea King AEW 2 XV650/182/R, XV704/183, XV649/184/R 849 “B” flight.
Sea King HAS.6 XV701/010/R, ZA131/011, XV712/012, ZA133/013*, XV571/014*, ZA136/015, XV713/016, 820 * Flew into Luqa airport to collect mail and pick up journalists.

26-29 Sept 2002

Visited Malta in connection with the 60th anniversary of Operational Pedestal, or the Santa Marija convoy, as it more commonly known in Malta. Only three or four ships made it into Grand Harbour, including the all important oil tanker SS Ohio on 15 August 1942. It enabled the island to continue fighting, until a 35,000 ton convoy, Operation Stonehenge later in November, followed by a 55,000 ton convoy in December.
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