700 Naval Air Squadron

700 Naval Air Squadron (700 NAS) is an experimental test squadron in the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm.

700 Naval Air Squadron
700 NAS badge
CountryUnited Kingdom
BranchRoyal Navy
RoleOperational Evaluation Unit
Part ofFleet Air Arm
Garrison/HQRNAS Culrose (currently as 700X Squadron)
Motto(s)Experientia docet
(Latin: "Experience teaches")


700 NAS was originally formed on 21 January 1940 at RNAS Hatston (HMS Sparrowhawk) in Orkney in a plan to centralise the operations of the 700 series "Catapult" flights attached to catapult units and to act as a pool and Headquarters for all catapult aircraft embarked on battleships and cruisers - chiefly the Supermarine Walrus flying boat, together with the Fairey Seafox and Fairey Swordfish floatplanes. Initial equipment comprised 42 Walruses together with 11 Seafoxes and 12 Swordfishes.[1]

On 21 June 1940, a Walrus (P5666) of 700 Squadron on the cruiser HMS Manchester found the German battleship Scharnhorst but Manchester did not engage.

25 September 1940, Walrus L2247, embarked on HMAS Australia, was shot down by French Vichy fighters at Dakar and crashed into the sea all 3 crew perished.[2]

Trailing German capital ships in the lead up to the Battle of the Denmark Strait, Walrus L2184 of 700 NAS from HMS Norfolk was damaged by shellfire from Prinz Eugen in the Denmark Strait on 23 May 1941 while still on its catapult.

The final successful attack on an enemy submarine by a Walrus was on 11 July 1942, when Walrus W2709 of 700 (Levant) NAS sank the Italian submarine Ondina, along with the South African surface vessels Protea and trawler Southern Maid, east of Cyprus.

There were at least 5 confirmed enemy submarines sunk or damaged by Walruses during the Second World War, including the Vichy French submarine Poncelet which was bombed by Walrus L2268 of 700 NAS from HMS Devonshire and attacked by HMS Milford on 7 November 1940 off the Cameroons. The submarine was damaged and forced to surrender, and later scuttled off the Gulf of Guinea. The crew of Petty Officer P H Parsons, Sub Lt A D Corkhill and N A Evans were all awarded gallantry medals.

700 NAS was disbanded in March 1944, pilots transferring into 771 Naval Air Squadron, but it was reformed as a Test Pilot School in October 1944.

700 NAS re-emerged in August 1955 as a Fleet Requirements unit and from 1957 was based out of RNAS Lee-on-Solent to introduce the Westland Whirlwind HAS.7.

Intensive Flying Trials Units (IFTU)

700H NAS
1955-57, RNAS Lee-on-Solent, Westland Whirlwind HAS.7
700X NAS
1957-58, Supermarine Scimitar F.1
700Y NAS
1958-59, RNAS Yeovilton, de Havilland DH.110 Sea Vixen FAW.1
700X NAS
1959-61, RNAS Yeovilton, Saro P.531
700H NAS
1960-61, HMS Vengeance, Fairey Gannet and Hawker Sea Hawk deck and launch trials
700H NAS
1960-?, Westland Wessex HAS.1
700Z NAS
1961-63, RNAS Lossiemouth, Blackburn Buccaneer S.1
700V NAS
1963-64, Westland Wessex HU.5
700W NAS
1963-64, Westland Wasp HAS.1
700B NAS
1965-?, RNAS Lossiemouth, Blackburn Buccaneer S.2
700H NAS
1967-?, Westland Wessex HAS.3
700P NAS
1968-69, McDonnell Douglas F-4K Phantom II FG.1
700S NAS
1969-70, Westland Sea King HAS.1
700L NAS
1976-77, RNAS Yeovilton, Westland Lynx HAS.2
700A NAS
1979-80, RNAS Yeovilton, BAe Sea Harrier FRS.1
700L NAS
1990-92, RNAS Yeovilton, Westland Lynx HAS.2, (Lynx CTS Trials)
700M NAS
1998-2008, RNAS Culdrose, AgustaWestland Merlin HM.1
700W NAS
2009-2014, RNAS Yeovilton, AgustaWestland Wildcat HMA.2
700X NAS
2014-, RNAS Culdrose, Boeing Insitu ScanEagle, COTS Mini RPAS

The Squadron carried on trials of de Havilland Sea Vixens on HMS Victorious and HMS Centaur during 1958 and from October 1959 formed at Yeovilton with the Saunders Roe P.531 to investigate what would be needed to introduce a whole new form of helicopter operation to the Fleet – which led to the Westland Wasp.

In October 1960 flight tests of landing and take-offs from HMS Vengeance with 27 launchings of the turboprop Fairey Gannet and 34 with the Hawker Sea Hawk.

700 NAS disbanded again at RNAS Yeovilton in July 1961. However, a number of Intensive Flying Trials Units were subsequently formed under the "700 NAS" title, to prepare for new aircraft types coming into service. These operated as independent units, each being identified by a suffix letter after the squadron number (e.g. "700B").

Several of these IFTUs were formed for the introduction of the Westland Wessex, Blackburn Buccaneer, McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, Westland Sea King, Westland Lynx and BAe Sea Harrier into the Fleet Air Arm.

More recently, the squadron was re-commissioned at RNAS Culdrose in December 1998 as 700M Squadron, with a primary role of testing and evaluating the AgustaWestland Merlin HM.1 helicopter. 700M disbanded on 31 March 2008, transferring its aircraft and personnel to 824 Naval Air Squadron and also forming a new flight, 824 OEU. The squadron reformed again as 700W NAS in May 2009 at Yeovilton as the Lynx Wildcat Fielding Squadron. 700W expects to receive up to five Wildcats from January 2013 for operational evaluation and conversion training.[3] The squadron was disbanded in July 2014 when it was merged with 702 NAS to form 825 Naval Air Squadron, the first operational Wildcat unit.[4]

Present day

The Squadron currently operates as 700X NAS and undertakes RPAS trials, and also acts as a parent unit for the various ship-based flights operating the Insitu Scan Eagle UAV.[5]

Aircraft operated


  • Sturtivant, R; Ballance, T (1994). The Squadrons of The Fleet Air Arm. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd. ISBN 0-85130-223-8.

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