700 NAS & 736 NAS

No. 700 Naval Air Squadron (700NAS)

700 NAS was first formed at Hatston on 21st January 1940, by amalgamating all the 700 series of Catapult Squadrons. It’s initial fleet comprised over 40 Supermarine Walrus’, 12 Swordfish and 11 Seafoxes.
During the Second World War, several detachments of 700 Sqn were set up overseas, including in the Middle East and in the Mediterranean. During 1943 the Squadron’s aircraft were gradually reduced with the advent of MAC Ships and escort carriers, and as a result 700NAS disbanded in March 1944.

It reformed seven months later in October, at RNAS Donibristle, as a Maintenance Test Pilot Training Squadron, where pilots were required to complete 5 weeks test flying on the basic FAA aircraft then in service. This course ran for ten weeks at Worthy Down airfield after the Squadron’s move, and included experience in the Martlet, Firefly, Hellcat, Firebrand and Seafire amongst others. 700NAS was later based at Middle Wallop from November 1945, and RNAS Yeovilton from April 1946, and remained based there until disbandment in September 1949.

It reformed for a third time in August 1955, at RNAS Ford as the Trials and Requirements Unit, with a fleet of 9 Firefly TT.4s, and 2 each of Sea Vampire F.20s, Ansons, Sea Hawks, Wyverns and Gannets. It lost its Fleet Requirements role when handed over to the Airwork FRU at Hurn during 1957. A year later the Squadron moved to Yeovilton, before disbanding in 1961.
A number of Intensive Flying Trials Units were formed both before, but mainly after 700 NAS disbanded in 1961, in preparation for new types coming into Fleet Air Arm service. They operated under the 700 NAS title but as independent units, each being identified by an individual letter after the number. Since 1960, 700NAS various trial flights have welcomed; the Wessex, Wasp, Buccaneer, Phantom, Sea King, Lynx, Sea Harrier and Merlin into Fleet Air Arm service.

It’s Hunter service was brief, being on three separate occasions. A single T.8 XL582, shortly after delivery from Hawkers was employed by 700Y NAS, the Sea Vixen FAW.1 trials unit. The aircraft was in use between November 1958 and January 1959, and the Unit disbanded six months later in July.

At least two Hunter T.8s, XF358 and WW664, were attached to 700Z NAS at RNAS Lossiemouth between May 1961 and September 1962 when the Admiralty received the first examples of the Blackburn Buccaneer S.1. The Unit disbanded in January 1963 when the trials were completed. It is also reported that at least one other Hunter, T.8 WV319 also served with the Squadron but this is unconfirmed at the time of writing.

700 NAS’ last era of Hunter operations lasted just two months. T.8 XE664 was used by 700B NAS, based at RNAS Lossiemouth, between April and May 1965 at a time when the Blackburn Buccaneer Mk.2s were arriving on strength. 700B disbanded in September 1965.

No. 736 Naval Air Squadron (736NAS)

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No. 736 Naval Air Squadron (700NAS)

736 NAS was first formed at RNAS Yeovilton on 24th May 1943 as the School of Air Combat, and was equipped with Seafire Mk.1Bs. It’s purpose was to teach the latest air combat techniques to experienced naval aviators. The Unit moved to St Merryn in Cornwall during September 1943, where Miles Masters and Fairey Barracudas were added to the Squadron’s inventory. Between 1943 and 1950 the Squadron operated numerous types, including Supermarine Seafires, Hawker Sea Furies and Fairey Fireflies.
On 1st February 1950 736 NAS moved to RNAS Culdrose as the Naval Air Fighter School, and was originally equipped with almost 50 Sea Furies, although the fleet was halved in May 1952 when some aircraft were transferred to 738 NAS. On 25th August 1952, 738 NAS absorbed all the 736 NAS’ Sea Furies, and the Squadron disbanded as a piston-engined squadron.

Just a day later, 736NAS reformed at RNAS Culdrose as an Advanced Jet Flying School, and received Supermarine Attackers and Meteor T.7s. It moved to RNAS Lossiemouth in November 1953 where the entire fleet was exchanged for Sea Vampires and Sea Hawks. A change of role occurred in 1955, when the unit became responsible for training all FAA pilots who had been trained in the USA to British standards and aircraft. The Sea Hawks departed as a result, but they returned in 1958 when 736NAS became a Sea Hawk training Unit. Re-equipping with Scimitars from May 1959, the Squadron remained in commission until 26th March 1965 when it was disbanded, and the aircraft passed onto 764B NAS.

736nas reformed the same day at RNAS Lossiemouth as a Buccaneer S.1 unit. These aircraft were partially replaced by Buccaneer S.2s from May 1966, and the Squadron was disbanded in February 1972.
It was during this third spell in commission that 736NAS operated the Hunter T.8, albeit only for a five-month period, between July and November 1958.

In June 2013. 736NAS was reformed at RNAS Culdrose with 14 BAe Hawk platforms following the withdrawal and standing down of the Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Unit (FRADU).

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