Reddit / u/abt137
It’s no secret that taking off from carriers is a complicated task. In some instances, such as this one, carrier take-offs are done in the presence of plane guards.
Plane guards typically come in the form of destroyers, frigates, or helicopters. These vehicles are tasked to recover an aircraft’s crewmembers if they were to crash during aircraft carrier flight operations.
Though helicopters are more commonly used, flights at night are usually accompanied by a ship acting as the plane’s guard.
In this case, a Westland Sea King is flying idly by as the Royal Air Force’s Harrier takes off from a ramp. It should be noted that the Sea King isn’t supposed to be hovering this close to the deck. This was probably done for a photo-op.
The US Navy also deploys plane guards, but they usually fly on the starboard side of the ship and out of the way of landing aircraft.