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Air Defence Troop aim for the sky

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Live firing exercise: Air Defence Troop training at Manorbier.

Live firing exercise: Air Defence Troop training at Manorbier.

AIR DEFENCE TRooP Royal Marines have just completed a live fi ring exercise at Air Defence Range Manorbier near Tenby in south west Wales. The Plymouth based troop are part of 30 Commando and specialise in using the High Velocity Missile (HVM) anti-air system made by Thales Air Defence Ltd. HVM is one of the most complex short range anti-air missile systems in the world and can be fi red off a small launcher called an LML or off the operators shoulder. HVM missiles go to three times the speed of sound within a second of launching, after which they are controlled by the operator using a small joystick on the launcher which is known as the aiming unit. Missile fi ring camps are highly technical and require months of planning.

Each operator has to do hundreds of shots on a simulator and then has to prove that he is ready to fi re a live missile by repeatedly tracking a target drone with a laser. The drones are called Banshees and are operated by technicians from QinetiQ. The Banshees are about two metres long and are designed to survive the missile engagement. They have sophisticated radar which allows the controllers to estimate if the HVM would have destroyed a full sized aircraft. Safety for the missile fi ring is coordinated by a specialist team from the Royal Artillery Gunnery Training Team (GTT) based at Larkhill in Wiltshire. The missiles are normally fi red from land out to sea because the large range safety template for this system.

Permanent staff at the range ensure all sea and air movement in the area is monitored visually and by radar. “We provide range safety cover and we look after fi rst time fi rers as they fi re using LML and in shoulder launch mode,” says Captain Rob Deane who is the GTT Instructor Gunnery. “Firing shoulder launch is harder because you have no stabilisation platform so we fi nd the stronger guys are suited better to this mode.” This was the fi rst fi ring for some of the marines who fi nished their Heavy Weapons three’s (Air Defence) course earlier in the year.

Air Defence is one of three Heavy Weapons branches in the Royal Marines, the other two being Antitanks and Mortars. “Air Defence is one of the Royal Marines branches you rarely hear about. Not many people even know what sort of missiles we fi re.” says Captain Chris Nutting, Offi cer Commanding Air Defence Troop. “We have made reasonable progress given the weather constraints. It’s quite a steep learning curve using HVM as it relies heavily on the quality of the user,” says Capt Nutting.

“Luckily we have some very capable lads who are able to perform under diffi cult circumstances; particularly in the shoulder launch role which requires a lot of upper body strength and general tenacity, especially when it gets windy.” The HVM missile has a fi rst stage motor which throws it forward from the launcher after which the second stage known as the ‘bus’ kicks in and boosts the missile to over 2000 mph which is faster than a rifl e bullet. The ‘bus’ burns out after less than a second and then three small ‘darts’ separate which are guided to the target by the operator using a laser beam.

Every missile launch is studied in detail by technicians from the missile manufacturer who provide telemetry feedback which allows the Gunnery Training Team to evaluate the success of each engagement. The target aircraft are so small that they need to trail smoke to help the operators’ acquire them in their sights. Although they are designed to survive missile engagements they do occasionally get destroyed by a direct hit. One operator who scored a direct hit was Marine Jamie Morgon, 23, from Reading. “The visibility was good so I had a good length of tracking,” said Mne Morgon.

“I took my time and did the engagement and it was successful. I was happy when I saw the parachute come out and the aircraft come down.” Air Defence Troop are part of Surveillance and Reconnaissance Squadron (SRS). This small unit is the nucleus of the 3 Commando Brigade Reconnaissance Force. Air Defence Troop routinely provide extra manpower to support SRS activities. Marine Andrew Tucker, 25, from Cornwall, was fi ring HVM in the shoulder launch role for the fi rst time. “This was my third missile. It was a lot harder fi ring shoulder launch, because it was windy it was a lot more diffi cult and there was a lot of buffeting about trying to get the tracking right.”

“I joined the troop for the chance to travel, because you can stay Plymouth based if you want but there’s also lots of chances to go away with SRS. I’ve also got additional qualifi cations such as getting parachute and Heavy Machine Gun trained out of being in the Troop because of the SRS connection,” added Mne Tucker. “The biggest issue here at this time of year is always the weather, the wind, the rain are all against us. Trying to fi t fi ring in around this is tricky,” says Capt Deane from the Royal Artillery. “We enjoy working with the Royal Marines though – they are, how you say, ‘hoofing!’

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Pembroke Dock: Two in hospital following Fort Road car accident

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EMERGENCY SERVICES dealt with what has been described by a witness as a “horrific car accident” in the Pembroke Dock area on Wednesday night (Jun 12).

A 23-year-old woman, driving a black BMW, travelled down Fort Road at speed, hit a low wall, catapulting the vehicle some considerable distance across a picnic area. The vehicle ended up irreparably damaged on the beach – which was luckily not in use at the time – landing next to the old Cambridge Gun Tower.

No other vehicles seem to have been involved, police said.

The driver has been arrested but remains in hospital, one passenger is in a critical but stable condition, in Cardiff, and a second passenger sustained only minor injuries.

A spokesperson for Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “We were called at 10.45pm on Wednesday night (Jun 23), to reports of a road traffic accident near the Fort Road car park in Pembroke Dock.

“We attended the scene with one rapid response vehicle, two emergency ambulances and our Emergency Medical Retrieval and Transfer Service.

“Two people were taken to University Hospital Wales, Cardiff for further treatment.”

The police are appealing in the media for information following the crash.

An official statement from the police reads as follows: “We were called to Fort Road, Pembroke Dock, at around 10.45pm on Wednesday night to reports of a single-vehicle collision. Ambulance and fire service also attended.

“A 19-year-old man was taken to the Heath Hospital in Cardiff and remains in a critical but stable condition.

“A second passenger attended hospital for minor injuries but has since been discharged. A 23-year-old woman was arrested, and currently remains in hospital.

“Anyone who witnessed the collision but who has not yet spoken to us should get in touch by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, visiting our website, or calling 101.

UPDATE: 24.06.2021, 15:47HRS

On Thursday (Jun 24) said that the female who was arrested was de-arrested because of the need for medical treatment, and is “no longer under arrest at this time.”

The police also added that their investigation was “still active”.

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Pembrokeshire call handler helps deliver Llanelli couple’s new baby

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A 999 CALL HANDLER from Pembrokeshire has helped deliver a Llanelli couple’s baby.

Father-of-two Chris Bassett, from Hook, answered the call from the Trust’s Clinical Contact Centre in Carmarthen, and whose instructions on loudspeaker enabled the pair to deliver their 8lb 1oz new arrival safely.

Thanks to Chris, Troy Smith, 34, and partner Abigail Jones, 33, delivered baby Arabella Dilys Smith in the bedroom of their Llanelli home.

Troy said: “I’ve never felt adrenaline like it but I knew I had to focus on the situation for Abigail and the baby’s sake.

“It all happened so quickly, but Chris’ voice on the other end of the phone kept us calm.”

Abigail, a teacher at Ysgol Carreg Hir in Briton Ferry, went into labour at around 10.00pm on Thursday, June 3, and made a trip to hospital, where nurses confirmed she was in the early stages.

The couple returned to their Pwll home, but their soon-to-be daughter had other ideas.

Troy said: “At around 4.30am, Abigail developed a lot of pain and said she had an urge to push.

“I thought, ‘Right, this is happening’ and phoned an ambulance because I knew I’d be delivering the baby right there and then.”

It was Chris, a former RAF Aerospace Systems Operator, who picked up the call in the early hours of Friday, June 4.

The 29-year-old, who has been with the Welsh Ambulance Service for 18 months, said: “As soon as I answered the call, it was obvious that Troy and Abigail were in distress, as anyone would be in that situation.

“The priority was to get Abigail in a comfortable position to deliver the baby safely.

“For me, it was about giving them clear instructions while trying to keep them both calm.”

Troy added: “I just did what came naturally. When you’re in that situation, you just do it.

“As soon as Arabella came, I felt this wave of relief and I just couldn’t believe how gorgeous she was.

“Chris was so professional and handled the situation really well.

“He gave us all the information and kept us calm.”

Ambulance crews arrived soon after, and took Abigail to Carmarthen’s Glangwili General Hospital, where she was treated for shock before being discharged the following day.

Abigail said: “The whole thing was petrifying because I just never expected to be having the baby at home, but we’re so grateful to Chris for helping us to deliver Arabella safely.”

Chris added: “In your role as a 999 call handler, you’re helping people in their darkest hour, but I’m just glad this call had a happy ending.

“This is the third baby I’ve helped to deliver during my time at the ambulance service, but the first one I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.”

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Covid causes partial school closure at Haverfordwest High VC

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A PARTIAL school closure is in force today at Haverfordwest High VC school after a pupil in year 9 has tested positive for coronavirus.

All students in year 9 must stay at home , isolate and await further instruction while the school completes all of the necessary Track and Trace processes.

In a statement released by the school, they said: “We have been informed that a Year 9 pupil has tested positive for COVID-19.

“We wish them a speedy recovery.

“As a precautionary measure and to enable us to complete all of the necessary Track and Trace processes, the school will be closed to Year 9 Pupils today.

“The school remains open to all other year groups.

“Until further notice, Year 9 students should stay at home and isolate until further instructions are given. Lessons for all other year groups will continue as usual. Unless your child is in Year 9 they should attend school.”

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