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Royal Navy Launches Centennial Celebration Of Naval Aviation

Admiralty Order First British Airship On May 7, 1909

Royal Navy aviators and veterans, including Jock Moffat, the Swordfish pilot whose torpedo crippled the Bismark in World War II, gathered Monday at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London to launch the One Hundredth Anniversary of Naval Aviation. The centenary year will be marked by a number of colorful events and activities throughout the UK.

The anniversary marks the Admiralty's decision on May 7, 1909 to order the first airship, HMS Airship 1, and embark on a development program for military aviation. Consequently, when World War One broke out five years later, the Royal Navy was not only prepared but in the vanguard.

British officials proudly note it was the Royal Navy who carried out the first strategic bombing from the air, the first air to air kill, the first sinking of a ship using a torpedo from the air and the first use of aircraft in a sea battle. The Fleet Air Arm went on to perform with valour and distinction including actions such as the Taranto Raid, the Channel Dash, involvement in the sinking of the Bismarck and more recently the Falklands Conflict, Gulf Wars and Afghanistan.

The Fleet Air Arm has won 4 VCs during its history, the first being awarded to Lt. Warneford in 1915 for downing a German Airship.

"The Harrier Jets of the Naval Strike Wing have just returned from Afghanistan where they were providing vital close air support to our troops, including the Royal Marines of 3 Commando Brigade," said First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Jonathon Band. "Sea King and Lynx helicopters from three Naval Air Squadrons are also out there, having moved across from operations in Iraq where they had been since day one of the war. Eighty per cent of our front-line squadrons are deployed on operations around the world demonstrating the flexibility, adaptability and professionalism that has become the hallmark of the Fleet Air Arm."

"We face an increasingly unstable world, and at the very heart of our national defence policy lies the requirement to respond to threats to our national security by dealing with them where and when they occur," Band added. "This need for expeditionary capability is at the very core of what the Royal Navy is all about and the Fleet Air Arm is now, and will continue to be, a key element."

The highlight of the anniversary events will be on May 7 this year at Greenwich, London with a fly past of historic and current Fleet Air Arm aircraft over the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious. A service of thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral on May 8 will formally recognize and pay tribute to the sacrifices made during the history of the Royal Naval Air Service and the Fleet Air Arm.

FMI: www.royalnavy.mod.uk/

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