Hi. I’m Matt Thornton, the new Team Leader for Project WINFRA.
I’ve only been in post for a few months but in that time a lot has happened on the project – most recently we’ve had a visit from Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Jonathan Woodcock, who was shown the infrastructure progress being made at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Yeovilton.
Before I tell you more about the progress we’re making, here’s a quick recap of what the project involves: WINFRA is an exciting and ambitious project which will enable RNAS Yeovilton to become the new home for both the Royal Navy’s and the Army’s Wildcat helicopter forces. The Wildcat Infrastructure programme will provide the new training and office facilities, squadron buildings and living accommodation which will ensure that both servicemen and women at the air base are able to train for deployment using both the existing fleet of Lynx helicopters and the Wildcat.
The Wildcat AH (Army Helicopter) Mk1 is a versatile aircraft which will perform a range of tasks on the battlefield including reconnaissance, command and control, transportation of troops and material, and the provision of force protection in the Land environment.
The Wildcat HMA (Helicopter Maritime Attack) Mk2 is the latest generation of multi role helicopter specifically procured to operate from the Frigates and Destroyers of the Royal Navy, 28 of which have been procured.
The project in numbers
Originally a single project, WINFRA was broken down into a series of smaller discrete contracts to meet Defence timelines. The DIO Project team is working with partner Carillion to deliver four major projects with a value of between £8 million and £52 million. These include the refurbishment and remodelling of a number of hangars and the delivery of technical facilities, together with two new build squadron office buildings and a number of other new facilities such as the Warrant Officers and Senior Rates Mess with associated single living accommodation (SLA), cardiovascular fitness suite, Dental Centre, and refurbished Medical Centre.
Up to now we’ve delivered and handed over Building 710 which will support the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) Merlin helicopters at Yeovilton. Building 710 is a three storey Squadron Office Block and is one of four major WINFRA projects. The building is being used by 846 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) which has relocated from RAF Benson, along with the Merlin Mk3 helicopter.
The project has also delivered technical facilities worth in the region of £14m for both the Navy and Army, including a new Quartermaster’s Store, Motor Transport Workshop facility; secure covered vehicle garaging, car park extensions, ancillary buildings (including new vehicle fuel and wash down point) and a cycle path. We handed these over to the Army Air Corps earlier this year and they have been really impressed with their new facilities.
Since the last blog, we’ve also handed over to the Lynx Wildcat Maritime Force (LWMF), operating both Lynx Mk 8 and the newly delivered Wildcat HMA Mk2, a refurbished Squadron Office Block for 825 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) and a new build Squadron Office Block for 815 NAS.
With the new build mess facilities, a number of job opportunities will become available in the local communities.
In terms of statistics, the WINFRA project has removed over 52,000 tonnes of earth, used over 1800 tonnes of steel (UK sourced) and employed a 500 tonne crane to erect the steel work. All this work is to support the existing Naval Air Station, but specifically the uplift of an additional 750 Army personnel and over 30 Wildcat AH Mk1 helicopters.
A refurbished three storey office block to house the Regimental Headquarters and flying squadrons of 1 Regt Army Air Corps (AAC) will be completed this year, along with a number of aircraft hangars protected by the new Video Fire Detection System (VFDS).
The contract for the fourth and final project – which involves building a new Senior Rates Mess with associated Single Living Accommodation (SLA), cardiovascular fitness suite, and the refurbishment of the current Medical Centre – is also progressing well.
Also handed over is the new build Dental Centre, capable of catering for the uplift in Army personnel.
When the refurbishment and building work is completed on the site, RNAS Yeovilton will provide the necessary infrastructure to support the Navy and Army Wildcat in the same operational base. It will also deliver efficiencies as the single operating base for Wildcat. The project is due for completion in 2017.