JOINT HELICOPTER COMMAND
The Joint Helicopter Command is a Tri-Service “Joint” organisation comprising units of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force and was was formed in 1999 to bring together under one command the battlefield helicopters of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force . The Joint Helicopter Command operates over 250 aircraft including from the Royal Navy’s Commando Helicopter Force; Royal Air Force helicopters and helicopters and the fixed wing aircraft of the Army Air Corps. The principle Army formation under command is 16 Air Assault Brigade, the newest and largest brigade in the British Army. Formed in 1999 and based in Colchester, the brigade has already served in Macedonia, Iraq and Afghanistan. 16 Brigade is the Army’s primary rapid reaction formation, equipped and manned so that it can be used throughout the spectrum of conflict from humanitarian tasks, such as disaster relief at one extreme, through to high intensity warfighting at the other.
The Commando Helicopter Force based at the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton is equipped with Lynx and Sea King helicopters. The Commando Helicopter Force is primarily a maritime force that is trained, equipped and organised for expeditionary joint operations.
The JHC includes all front-line elements of the Army Air Corps. 1 and 5 Regiments AAC are based in Germany and Northern Ireland respectively. 3, 4 and 9 Regiments AAC are part of 16 Air Assault Brigade. 6 Regiment AAC is a TA regiment; 6 Regiment AAC (V) is based at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. In addition to the regiments, the Army Air Corps have a number of independent flights under the command of JHC; these are based in Canada and Brunei.
The RAF Support Helicopter Force operates under the command of JHC and includes Chinook, Puma and Merlin Squadrons based at the RAF stations at Aldergrove (Northern Ireland), Benson (Oxfordshire) and Odiham (Hampshire). Tactical communications support for the Support Helicopter Force is provided by 21 (Air Support) Signal Regiment based at Colerne, near Bath. The provision of aviation fuel to deployed battlefield helicopters is the responsibility of the RAF Tactical Supply Wing based at RAF Stafford.
Overall the JHC employs over 15,000 personnel, some 8,000 of whom are in 16 Air Assault Brigade. This figure includes over 900 volunteer reserves from the Territorial Army and Royal Auxiliary Air Force, and 380 MOD civilian staff. The Joint Helicopter Command currently has aircraft and troops deployed in Afghanistan, the Joint Helicopter Force(Afghanistan) provides the tactical mobility and firepower that is an essential feature of any modern operation. Crews are specially selected and trained to operate in the most demanding high threat environment.
The Headquarters of the Joint Helicopter Command is co-located with the Army Headquarters at Marlborough Lines near Andover.