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Former Ringwood School pupil takes off as submarine hunter for the Royal Navy

The Merlin helicopter is designed to locate and destroy hostile submarines (pictures: Royal Navy)
The Merlin helicopter is designed to locate and destroy hostile submarines (pictures: Royal Navy)

A RINGWOOD man’s Royal Navy career is set for take-off as an elite helicopter pilot defending the UK’s flagships against enemy submarines.

Lieutenant Samuel Cass, a former Ringwood School pupil, was handed his wings at a ceremony at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose in Cornwall, having completed five years of intense training.

The delighted 27-year-old joins 820 Naval Air Squadron, the unit dedicated to protecting the UK’s aircraft carriers HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Queen Elizabeth.

He will pilot the formidable Merlin Mk-2 aircraft, armed with dipping sonar, powerful radar and torpedoes, designed to locate and destroy hostile submarines.

Lt Cass spent hundreds of hours training in simulators before undergoing test flights. He said: “I think the most fun I’ve had was the first time we did something called probing, which is where you’re trying to identify a contact but you don’t necessarily want them to know.

Lt Samuel Cass completed five years of intense training
Lt Samuel Cass completed five years of intense training

“You don’t want them to know where you are or potentially see you on radar, so the way we do that is to get incredibly close down to the sea.

“We were flying at 50 feet above the sea and at 100 knots towards the contact. It was really choppy midway out in the Celtic Sea and I honestly felt the waves were going past the window at times.

“We were pushing the aircraft to its limits essentially, because that’s as low as you can go.”

Lt Cass added: “I’m definitely looking forward to the frontline squadron now, where we get out to do a real job, because so far it’s just been training.”

He had been set to go into an accounting career while studying maths at University in Plymouth but changed tack after his grandfather told him about a Royal Navy television recruitment ad.

Lt Cass said: “I applied and then, just through the process of talking to people in the navy, one of them asked, ‘Have you ever considered being a pilot?’ just because I mentioned in passing that I was in the Air Cadets. Well, I hadn’t, but I managed to change my application.”

Commander James Taylor congratulated Lt Cass and seven other pilots who qualified, saying: “This is the biggest milestone in their careers – the day that you are awarded your wings is a day that every naval aviator will always remember.

“Our graduates now join the Royal Navy’s finest frontline naval air squadrons at a really exciting time. I know they are all desperate to get embarked and do their jobs at sea. They will absolutely love it and wish them every success.”

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