Commando Helicopter Force

The Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) is known as the ‘Junglies’. The flying squadrons that comprise CHF were all born during the latter stages of WW2. It was the presence of two of the squadrons in the Malayan and Borneo Emergency in the 1960s that saw them bestowed the title of ‘Junglies’ by the troops on the ground. That term of endearment has proudly remained ever since.

The Commando Helicopter Force provides aviation support to the Force’s primary customer, United Kingdom Commando Forces. It also offers valuable output to other Naval Fighting Arms, most notably as an integral part of the Royal Navy’s Carrier Strike Group, along with a plethora of tasking in support of wider defence activity as part of the Tri-Service Joint Helicopter Command. Throughout the year elements of Commando Helicopter Force are held at Extremely High Readiness in efforts to defend the UK Homeland.

845 Naval Air Squadron and 847 Naval Air Squadron, flying the new Commando Merlin MK4 and Commando Wildcat MK1 respectively, constitute the deployable aviation elements of the Commando Helicopter Force. They are permanently held at Very High Readiness and are able to deploy anywhere in the world within 48 to 72 hours. Both helicopter types are able to deploy inside RAF transport aircraft and to be operationally flying within hours of arriving at their end destination.

846 Naval Air Squadron is the home of the Commando Merlin Operation Conversion Flight produces new Commando Merlin MK4 pilots and aircrewman for the front-line. All its flight training delivery personnel and engineers are also at Very High Readiness and they too can deploy in an operational role at short notice.

For over fifty years the Commando Helicopter Force has delivered the UK’s Cold Weather Aviation training in Norway under Operation Clockwork. The training is delivered at the Royal Norwegian Airforce Base in Bardufoss, 200 miles inside the Arctic circle. The Commando Helicopter Force is the Arctic aviation specialists in the MOD’s rotary inventory, and both the Commando Helicopter Force’s aircraft types undertake use of the facility annually.

The Operation Clockwork facility is principally enabled by Commando Helicopter Force personnel, and Clockwork is charged with delivering a Safe Operating Environment to all Joint Helicopter Command elements required to operate in the Arctic. Real life support is provided by Commando Helicopter Force’s integral Combat Service Support Squadron, with ground training delivered by Commando Helicopter Force’s own Military Training Unit, and aviation operations ably supported by the Force’s Commando Mobile Air Operations Team (MAOT). This unparalleled annual training includes cold weather flying courses for Merlin, Wildcat, Chinook and Apache, and demonstrates the UK’s support to NATO and its ability to respond to threats in the High North.

The advent of HMS Queen Elizabeth Carriers sees the Commando Helicopter Force supporting the new carriers with rotary wing aircraft providing the commando force lift and delivery capability to operate from the carriers. Additionally, the Commando Merlins are a vital component of the Search and Rescue element on each carrier.

At home at Royal Air Station Yeovilton in Somerset the Commando Helicopter Force now boasts a new and advanced cutting edge Merlin MK4 helicopter simulator trainer. With two cockpit modules and a unique rear crew trainer aircrews can undertake uninterrupted cost effective training throughout the year without impacting on the helicopter fleet.

The nature and source of future conflict has become more difficult than ever to predict. Unexpected military, political crisis or humanitarian assistance across the globe demands a flexible and rapid response. The Commando Helicopter Force, as part of the UK’s high readiness amphibious response force, is ideally structured to respond with global reach and speed to any crisis to protect and promote the nation’s security, prosperity and reputation.