703 Naval Air Squadron


703 Naval Air Squadron
703 NAS Badge.jpg
703 Naval Air Squadron badge
Active3 March 1942 - 1 May 1944
April 1945 - August 1955
22 January 1972 - 1 January 1981
2003 - present
Country United Kingdom
Allegiance Royal Navy
BranchFleet Air Arm
RoleElementary Flying Training
Part ofNo. 3 Flying Training School RAF
Garrison/HQRAF Barkston Heath
Motto(s)Experientia docet
(Latin: "Experience teaches")
Battle honoursNone
Commanding OfficerMaj B Atherton RM[1]

703 Naval Air Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy was formed as a long-range catapult squadron on 3 March 1942 at RNAS Lee-on-Solent. During the Cold War, it was reformed as an experimental trials unit, and then as a helicopter training squadron. Since 2003, the squadron has formed the Royal Naval wing of the Defence Elementary Flying Training School at RAF Barkston Heath.


World War II

On 3 June 1942, 703 Naval Air Squadron was formed at RNAS Lee-on-Solent to operate floatplanes off catapult-equipped Armed Merchant Cruisers. It was initially equipped with Vought Kingfishers, supplementing these with Fairey Seafox and Fairey Swordfish floatplanes.[2] The squadron also operated three Supermarine Walrus amphibian aircraft from Walvis Bay in southern Africa. On 1 May 1944, the squadron was disbanded.[3]

Air Sea Warfare Development Unit (1945 - 1950)

In April 1945, the squadron was reformed as the naval component of the RAF's Air Sea Warfare Development Unit (ASWDU) at RAF Thorney Island, to conduct experimental trials on a large variety of aircraft including the Grumman Avenger, Fairey Barracuda, Fairey Firefly and de Havilland Sea Mosquito. The squadron moved to RNAS Lee-on-Solent in May 1948, absorbing 778 Naval Air Squadron and adding 778's Service Trials Unit role to its existing duties.[3] In 1948–49, the squadron tested plans to land jet aircraft on to a flexible deck, without the use of an undercarriage;[3]trials were conducted by the squadron using a de Havilland Sea Vampire.

Service Trials Unit (1950 - 1955)

A Westland Wyvern aircraft of the Fleet Air Arm

In April 1950, the squadron moved to RAF Ford (now the site of HM Prison Ford), concentrating on the Service Trials Unit role and became known as the STU.[3] It was further strengthened on 12 July 1950, when 739 Naval Air Squadron, a unit specialising in development of photographic reconnaissance was merged with 703 Squadron.[4] At Ford it experimented with British innovations in aircraft carrier operations, including the mirror landing aid and the steam catapult.[3] Independent flights were set up for a number of specialist trials. From February to June 1954, "A" Flight was based at RNAS Arbroath for tests of a new controlled approach sysetm for aircraft carriers, while 703X Flight carried out trials on the Fairey Gannet AS1 from March to December 1954 and 703W Flight tested the Westland Wyvern.[3] In August 1955, 703 NAS and 771 NAS amalgamated to form 700 Naval Air Squadron.[3]

Wasp training squadron (1972 - 1981)

On 22 January 1972, 703 NAS was re-formed at RNAS Portland to conduct training on the Westland Wasp, including from February 1975 advanced training, a role it took over from 706 Naval Air Squadron.[3] On 1 January 1981, after 9 years of training aircrew on the Wasp, the squadron was disbanded.[3]

Elementary Flying Training (2003 - present)

A Grob Prefect (120TP) of the Defence Elementary Flying Training School

In 1993, the RAF and RN Elementary Flying Training was merged to form a single school at RAF Topcliffe, and from 1995, at RAF Barkston Heath. In 1996, after taking on Army Air Corps training, the unit was renamed the Joint Elementary Flying Training School (JEFTS). In 2003, the RAF withdrew from the organisation, and the unit was renamed the Defence Elementary Flying Training School (DEFTS) operating the Slingsby Firefly[5][failed verification] until 2006. At this time, the Royal Naval element was organised as 703 Naval Air Squadron, and the Army element became 674 Squadron Army Air Corps.

703 NAS trains about 60 Royal Navy pilots every year. The Squadron previously used the Grob Tutor[6] up until 2018, before transitioning to the Grob Prefect, a Turboprop trainer provided under the new UKMFTS contract.[1]

Aircraft flown

Two Royal Australian Air Force Vought Kingfisher aircraft in 1942

Largely because of its role as a trials unit in the 1950s, 703 Naval Air Squadron has flown a large number of aircraft types, including:

See also


  1. ^ a b "Perfect Prefect" (PDF). Navy News. April 2019. p. 19. Retrieved 23 October 2021.
  2. ^ Sturtivant & Ballance 1994, pp. 24–25
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sturtivant & Ballance 1994, p. 24
  4. ^ Sturtivant & Ballance 1994, pp. 24, 63
  5. ^ "703 NAS at the Royal Navy website". Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  6. ^ "Flight of the Slingsby Firefly". BBC. 17 November 2009. Archived from the original on 7 March 2012. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  • Sturtivant, Ray; Ballance, Theo (1994). The Squadrons of the Fleet Air Arm. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air Britain (Historians) Ltd. ISBN 0-85130-223-8.

External links

  • 703 NAS Elementary Flying Training Website
  • 703 NAS Observer Training Flight Website