Army Air Corps (United Kingdom)
|Army Air Corps|
1957 – present
|Role||Battlefield support, reconnaissance|
|Garrison/HQ||1 Regiment: Gütersloh, Germany
2 Regiment: Middle Wallop
3 Regiment: Wattisham
4 Regiment: Wattisham
5 Regiment: Aldergrove
6 Regiment: Army Reserve
7 Regiment: Middle Wallop
9 Regiment: Dishforth
|March||Quick: Recce Flight
Slow: Thievish Magpie
|Battle honours||Falkland Islands 1982
Wadi al Batin, Gulf 1991
Al-Basrah, Iraq 2003
|Colonel-in-Chief||HRH The Prince of Wales|
|General The Rt Hon. The Lord Dannatt KCB CBE MC|
|Trainer||Eurocopter Squirrel AS350BB
AS365N3 Dauphin II
The Army Air Corps is a component of the British Army, first formed in 1942. There are eight regiments (7 Regular Army and 1 Territorial Army) of the AAC as well as four Independent Flights and two Independent Squadrons deployed in support of British Army operations across the world. They are located in Britain, Brunei, Canada, and Germany. The AAC provides the offensive air elements of 16 Air Assault Brigade.
The first Army Air Corps
The British Army first took to the sky during the 19th century with the use of observation balloons. In 1911 the Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers was the first heavier-than-air British military aviation unit. The following year, the Battalion was expanded into the Military Wing of the Royal Flying Corps which saw action throughout most of the First World War until 1 April 1918, when it was merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to form the Royal Air Force.
At the beginning of the Second World War, Royal Artillery officers, with the assistance of RAF technicians, flew Auster observation aircraft under RAF-owned Air Observation Post (AOP) Squadrons. Twelve such squadrons were raised —three of which belonged to the RCAF— and each performed vital duties in a wide array of missions in many theatres.
Early in the war, Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, announced the establishment of a new branch of army aviation, the Army Air Corps, formed in 1942. The corps initially comprised the Glider Pilot Regiment and the Parachute Battalions (subsequently the Parachute Regiment), and the Air Observation Post Squadrons. In 1944, the SAS Regiment was added to the Corps.
One of their most successful exploits during the war was Operation Deadstick the attack on Pegasus Bridge, which occurred on 6 June 1944, prior to the landings on Normandy. Once the three gliders landed, some roughly which incurred casualties, the pilots joined the glider-borne troops (Ox & Bucks Light Infantry) to act as infantry. The Bridge was taken within ten minutes of the battle commencing and the men there withstood numerous attempts by the Germans to re-capture the location. They were soon reinforced and relieved by soldiers from Lord Lovat's 1 Special Service Brigade, famously led by piper Bill Millin. It was subsequently further reinforced by units of the British 3rd Division.
The AAC was broken up in 1949, with the SAS returning to its independent status, while the Parachute Regiment and Glider Pilot Regiment came under the umbrella of the Glider Pilot and Parachute Corps. The pilots who had once flown the gliders soon had to transfer to flying powered aircraft, becoming part of the RAF Air Observation Post (AOP) Squadrons, several of which were manned by reserve personnel.
The present Army Air Corps
In 1957 the Glider Pilot and Parachute Corps was renamed to The Parachute Regiment, while the Glider Pilot Regiment and the Air Observation Squadrons amalgamated into a new unit, the Army Air Corps.
From 1970, nearly every army brigade had at least one Aviation Squadron that usually numbered twelve aircraft. The main rotor aircraft during the 1970s were the Westland Scout and Bell Sioux general purpose helicopters. The Sioux was replaced from 1973 by the Westland Gazelle used for Airborne recce, initially unarmed, they were converted to carry 68mm SNEB rocket pods in 1982, during the Falklands War. The Scout was replaced from 1978 by the Westland Lynx capable of the additional fire power when carrying the Elite Air Door Gunners.
Basic rotary flying training was carried out on the Bell Sioux in the 1970s, the Westland Gazelle in the 1980s and 1990s and is currently conducted on the Eurocopter AS350 Squirrel.
Fixed-wing types in AAC service have included the Auster AOP.6 and AOP.9 and DHC-2 Beaver AL.1 in the observation and liaison roles. Since 1989, the AAC have operated a number of Britten-Norman Islander and Defender aircraft for surveillance and light transport duties. The corps operated the DHC-1 Chipmunk T.10 in the training role until its replacement by the Slingsby T67 Firefly in the 1990s. The Firefly was replaced by the Grob Tutor in 2010.
A further boost in the Army Air Corps' capability came in the form of the Westland Apache AH.1 attack helicopter. These formidable gun ships have now made the Army Air Corps one of the most combat effective and most feared units in the world of military force along side The Paras, The Royal Marines and the 3 Special Forces Regiments of UKSF - SAS, SBS and SRR. In 2006, British Apaches deployed to Afghanistan as part of the NATO International Security Assistance Force.
The AAC today
The strength of the Army Air Corps is believed to be some 2,000 Regular personnel, of which 500 are officers. However the AAC draws an additional 2,600 personnel from the Royal Logistic Corps and the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. Therefore total related Army Air Corp personnel is around 4,600 personnel.
The AAC operates fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. The AAC uses the same designation system for aircraft as the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm. Two types of fixed-wing aircraft are operated by the ACC, primarily for reconnaissance purposes: the Britten-Norman Islander AL1 and the Britten-Norman Defender AL1/AL2/T3. Additionally, AAC pilots use the fixed-wing Grob Tutor for Elementary Flying Training (at Army Flying Grading & DEFTS).
Today the larger section of the AAC is the rotary-wing part. Its aviators fly four types of helicopter, and within each type there are usually several marks/variants which carry out different roles. Pilots designated for rotary wing service train at the Defence Helicopter Flying School, RAF Shawbury. The School is a tri-Service organisation consisting of civilian and military instructors that take the student from basic flying through to more advanced flying such as instrument flying, navigation, formation and captaincy. In service rotary-wing aircraft include: the Bell 212HP AH1, the Eurocopter AS365N3 Dauphin II, the Eurocopter Squirrel HT2, the Westland Gazelle AH1, the Westland Lynx AH7, the Westland Lynx AH9A and the AgustaWestland Apache AH1.
|British Army arms and services|
|Royal Armoured Corps|
|Special Air Service|
|Army Air Corps|
|Special Reconnaissance Regiment|
|Combat Support Arms|
|Royal Corps of Signals|
|Royal Army Chaplains' Department|
|Royal Logistic Corps|
|Army Medical Services|
|Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers|
|Adjutant General's Corps|
|Small Arms School Corps|
|Royal Army Physical Training Corps|
|General Service Corps|
|Corps of Army Music|
- 1 Regiment Army Air Corps (organic to 1st Armoured Division)
- 2 (Training) Regiment, Army Air Corps
- 668 (Training) Squadron (until November 1945 No. 668 Squadron RAF)
- 676 (Training) Squadron
- 3 Regiment Army Air Corps (part of 16 Air Assault Brigade)
- 4 Regiment Army Air Corps (part of 16 Air Assault Brigade)
- 5 Regiment Army Air Corps
- 6 (Volunteer) Regiment, Army Air Corps
- 7 (Training) Regiment, Army Air Corps
- 9 Regiment Army Air Corps
- Independent flights
- 7 Flight Army Air Corps (Brunei)
- 25 Flight Army Air Corps (AAC Middle Wallop)
- 29 (BATUS) Flight Army Air Corps (Alberta, Canada)
- Independent squadrons
- 657 Squadron (RAF Odiham) (Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing (JSFAW))
- 658 Squadron (Credenhill Barracks) (JSFAW)
- 660 Squadron AAC (Defence Helicopter Flying School)
- 667 Squadron AAC (Development and Trials)
- 674 Squadron AAC (Defence Elementary Flying Training School)
- The Band Of The Army Air Corps
- Army Flying Grading
- Army Historic Aircraft Flight
- The Army Air Corps Blue Eagles Display Team
- The Army Air Corps Parachute Display Team
|British Army portal|
- 2 Flight Army Air Corps (AAC Netheravon, United Kingdom) (assigned to ACE Mobile Force (Land))
- 12 Flight Army Air Corps (West Germany)
- 16 Flight Army Air Corps (Akrotiri and Dhekelia, Cyprus)
The flight's base at Dhekelia has been closed for some time and the Flight are no longer listed on the AAC Website as an active flight.
The UNFICYP Flight Army Air Corps, originally known as the Force Aviation Flight, became, operational on 27 March 1964.The Flight was originally equipped with Alouette II helicopters. Duties ended 30 September 1994 when the Flight was replaced by a flight from the Argentine Air Force, ending thirty years, six months and four days of service under the UN flag.
- 654 Squadron AAC disbanded during July 2014.
In the future, the current regiments will be consolidated into the following structure:
- 1 Regiment AAC
- 3 Regiment AAC
- 4 Regiment AAC
- 5 Regiment AAC
1 and 9 Regt AAC will merge under one headquarters (1 Regt AAC) and re-locate to Yeovilton (RNAS Yeovilton) to form a large regiment equipped with the new AgustaWestland AW159 'Wildcat' helicopter not before Oct 15. The Regular component of Army Air Corps capability will consist of: two regular aviation regiments equipped with Apache, one large regular aviation regiment equipped with Wildcat, and one regular manned aerial surveillance regiment. All five squadrons from 1 and 9 AAC. will remain. Four squadrons will be the front line Lynx Wildcat squadrons, one (652 Squadron) will become the Wildcat Operational Conversion Squadron There will be two squadrons of Apache helicopters in both 3 and 4 Regiment AAC, with one Regiment at high readiness at any one time. One of the squadrons will the attached to HMS Ocean and/or the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. Another will be attached to the lead armoured battlegroup.
The Army Air Corps is classed, in UK military parlance, as a "Combat Arm". It therefore carries its own guidon and is awarded battle honours. The honours awarded to the AAC are:
- Normandy Landings 1944
- Merville Battery 1944
- Rhine 1945
- North West Europe 1944 - 45
- Sicily 1943
- Pegasus Bridge
- Arnhem 1944
- Southern France
- Falkland Islands 1982
- Wadi al Batin 1991
- Gulf 1991
- Iraq 2003
Order of precedence
Special Air Service
|British Army Order of Precedence||Succeeded by
Royal Army Chaplains' Department
- List of airfields of the Army Air Corps
- Museum of Army Flying
- List of Army Air Corps aircraft squadrons
- Australian Army Aviation
- Army Aviation Corps (India)
- Joint Helicopter Command
- Army aviation
- List of air forces
- Aircrew brevet
- Farrar-Hockley 1994, p. 9.
- Farrar-Hockley 1994, p. 17.
- Farrar-Hockley 1994, p. 41.
- Rawlings 1984, pp. 255-259.
- Rawlings 1984, p. 259.
- Halley 1988, pp. 444-451.
- Jefford 2001, pp. 102-105.
- Farrar-Hockley 1994, pp.179, 187-194.
- THE ARMY AIR CORPS (AAC), armedforces.co.uk
- "Photos: Eurocopter AS-365N-3 Dauphin 2 Aircraft Pictures". Airliners.net. 2008-11-20. Retrieved 2014-05-11.
- Westland Lynx
- Attack Helicopter
- On 9 September 2004 a British Army Westland Lynx AH9 crashed near the village Kuroslepy in the Czech Republic killing all six on board. The Lynx was operating as part of an Anglo-Czech joint military training exercise code named Flying Rhino (Létající nosorožec) being held in the Czech Republic. (1 Armd Div's symbol is the rhino, and previous 1 Armd Div exercises have been called 'White Rhino'.) The Lynx helicopter had arrived in the Czech Republic on 6 September at Čáslav. On 9 September it was operating a flight from Přerov to Náměšt nad Oslavou Air Base through the valley of river Oslava when the low flying helicopter was caught in high-voltage electric wires and crashed near the village Kuroslepy (near Brno). The wreckage ignited and all six persons on board died (two crew and four passengers). The exercise was initially suspended but later resumed in a limited form.BBC report Details about the crash, photos (in Czech)
- Army Air Corps units: Flights
- The UNFICYP Magazine Autumn 2011
- Army 2020
- "Army to reduce by 23 units - British Army Website". Army.mod.uk. 2012-07-05. Retrieved 2014-05-11.
- Tim Ripley, London - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly (2013-10-13). "British Army helicopters leave Germany - IHS Jane's 360". Janes.com. Retrieved 2014-05-11.
- Farrar-Hockley, General Sir Anthony. The Army in the Air: The History of the Artmy Air Corps. Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd., 1994. ISBN 0-7509-0617-0.
- Halley, James J. The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth 1918-1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
- Jefford, Wing Commander C.G., MBE, BA, RAF(Retd.). RAF Squadrons, a Comprehensive record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing, 1988 (second edition 2001). ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
- Mead, Peter. Soldiers in the Air: The Development of Army Flying. London: Ian Allan Ltd., 1967. OCLC 464211829
- Parham Major General H.J. & Belfield E.M.G. Unarmed Into Battle: The Story of the Air Observation Post. Warren & son, for the Air O.P. Officers' Association, Winchester, 1956. (Second edition: Chippenham, Wiltshire, UK: Picton Publishing Ltd., 1986. ISBN 978-0-948251-14-6)
- Rawlings, John D.R. Coastal, Support and Special Squadrons of the RAF and their Aircraft. London: Jane's Publishing Company Ltd., 1982. ISBN 0-7106-0187-5.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Army Air Corps (UK).|
- Official site
- School of Army Aviation
- Army Air Corps Historic Aircraft Flight official webpage
- The Blue Eagles - Army Air Corps Helicopter Display Team official webpage
- The Silver Eagles - Army Air Corps Freefall Parachute Display Team official webpage
- Army Air Corps group pool of images on Flickr
- Army Air Corps in Germany private webpage