Now we are settled in at home I've been getting stuck in to finishing the latest opus. Its the fourth in the series about the modern Royal Navy and once again based on a degree of personal experience. From 1984 to 1986 I was the Air Engineer Officer of 846 Squadron which had 8 Sea King Mark 4s and operated in support of the Royal Marines. Some of my time there contributed to the plot of my second book 'The Caspian Monster' mainly based on Arctic Operations. However, we also had a number of detachments elsewhere. One was to a ship project called 'Arapaho'. The US Navy had experimented before the Falklands with a modular concept using ISO containers and a lego type flight deck. The idea was that commercial container ships used the container as a nominal building block. Hence easily converting one to operate aircraft was on the cards. Us Brits during the Falklands used Ships Taken Up From Trade (STUFT) to great effect, indeed I landed on quite a few that had been ordinary merchant ships only weeks before. So after the war the interest in the concept was reviewed on both sides of the Atlantic. On our part we took the MV Astronomer, which had become the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) Reliant during the Falklands and outfitted her with some kit borrowed from the Yanks - the name 'Arapaho' comes from them. In a bit of a hurry, as usual, 846 were tasked to send two cabs on board to help the Multi National Force in the Lebanon to conduct an evacuation from Beirut. I won't go into the situation ashore but the boys did a good job and this is what got me started on the plot for the book. So Jon Hunt and his sidekick Brian, fly again and get mixed up in a volatile situation. I will post a few more titbits as the book nears completion. Kidnaps, hijacks and nefarious bad guys - business as usual.
One of my Sea Kings launching from the Reliant. Note the Union flag on the nose as part of the MNF. The flight deck is made up of panels the same size as a container, the only problem was that they were too rough and damaged tyres for a pastime.