Joint Helicopter Command
|Joint Helicopter Command|
Joint Helicopter Command badge
|Active||5 October 1999 – present|
|Branch|| Naval Service|
Royal Air Force
|Role||Battlefield helicopter operations|
|Part of||Army Headquarters|
|Headquarters||Marlborough Lines, Andover|
|Motto(s)||Across all boundaries|
|Current commander||Air Vice-Marshal Nigel Colman|
|Inaugural commander||Air-Vice Marshal David Niven|
Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) is a tri-service organisation uniting battlefield military helicopters of the British Armed Forces for command and coordination purposes. Joint Helicopter Command reports directly to the Chief of the General Staff.
Over the years, the grouping of all battlefield support helicopters operated by the Fleet Air Arm, Army Air Corps and Royal Air Force into one of the services had been discussed, however the Ministry of Defence (MOD) believed that any advantages would be outweighed by the damaging impact such a re-organisation would have on ethos, morale and operational effectiveness.
The Strategic Defence Review (SDR), published by the MOD in July 1998, announced that a Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) would be formed, which would deliver training, standards, doctrinal development and support for operations in order to maximise the availability of battlefield helicopters and reinforce their growing importance in military operations. JHC would be a tri-Service organisation, with personnel remaining part of their parent service. The formation of JHC was considered by the MOD as one of the most important initiatives to result from the SDR. The command was expected to draw on the equipment, personnel and expertise of the single services and be charged with providing the Joint Force Commander tailored packages of battlefield helicopters (from one or more service), support equipment and personnel, to meet operational requirements. The MOD's intention was to provide a single focus for the transfer of best practice from service to service and for removing, over time, differences in extant operating procedures.
A Joint Helicopter Command Study Team was established to determine how JHC should operate. Four options for the location of JHC Headquarters were also examined, with RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset, AAC Netheravon in Wiltshire, HQ Land Command at Erskine Barracks in Wiltshire and RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, being considered for the role.
Joint Helicopter Command was formed on 5 October 1999, bringing together the Navy's commando helicopters, the Army's attack and light utility helicopters, and the RAF's support helicopters. The Royal Navy's anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare and airborne early warning helicopters, and RN and RAF search and rescue helicopters, were not included in JHC and remained under the control of the respective services. JHC Headquarters was established alongside HQ Land Command at Erskine Barracks, with Air-Vice Marshal David Niven being the inaugural commander.
In 2007, JHC had over 15,000 personnel under its command, some 8,000 of who were part of 16 Air Assault Brigade This included over 900 volunteer reserves from the Territorial Army and Royal Auxiliary Air Force, and 380 MOD civilians.
Joint Helicopter Command's largest operation to date has been Operation Telic, the invasion of Iraq. Following the invasion, Joint Helicopter Command maintained units in Iraq, in support of British and coalition forces deployed there. Another detachment was also maintained in Afghanistan, as part of Operation Herrick.
Role and operations
The majority of the United Kingdom's military helicopters come under JHC, although exceptions include the Royal Navy's anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare and airborne early warning helicopters and the Defence Helicopter Flying School.
Air-Vice Marshal Nigel Colman became commander of Joint Helicopter Command in March 2020. JHC is part of Army Headquarters and has its headquarters at the British Army's Marlborough Lines, Andover in Hampshire.
Joint Helicopter Force (US)
Since 2009, the US Navy station Naval Air Facility El Centro (NAFEC) in California has been home to Joint Helicopter Force (US), an element of JHC which provides pre-deployment and desert environmental qualification training. The deserts of Southern California have temperatures and terrain closely resembling those of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, where British helicopters have been on operational duty in recent years.
Joint Helicopter Force (Northern Ireland)
The JHC operation in Northern Ireland in support of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and military units as part of Operation Banner and later Operation Helvetic was named the Joint Helicopter Force Northern Ireland (JHF(NI)). JHF(NI) consisted of the following units based at JHC Flying Station Aldergrove:
- 5 Regiment
- No. 230 Squadron – Westland Puma HC1
Joint Helicopter Force (Iraq)
The following aircraft types served with JHF(I):
- Boeing Chinook HC2s.
- Westland Sea King HC4s.
- Westland Lynx AH7/AH9s.
- Westland Gazelle AH1s.
- Westland Puma HC1s.
- Westland Merlin HC3s.
Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan)
The following aircraft types served with JHF(A):
- AgustaWestland Apache AH1s.
- Boeing Chinook HC2s.
- Westland Lynx AH7, AH9 & AH9As.
- Westland Merlin HC3s.
- Westland Puma HC1s.
- Westland Sea King HC4+ from November 2007 & ASaC7s
- Commando Helicopter Force (RNAS Yeovilton)
- Army Aviation Centre (AACen) (Middle Wallop)
- 47th Regiment Royal Artillery (Horne Barracks, Larkhill)
- 10 (Assaye) Battery – Watchkeeper WK450
- 31 (Headquarters) Battery
- 43 Battery (Lloyd's Company) – Watchkeeper WK450
- 74 Battery (The Battle Axe Company) – Watchkeeper WK450
1st Aviation Brigade
- 1st Aviation Brigade
- 1 Regiment (RNAS Yeovilton)
- 5 Regiment (JHFS Aldergrove)
- 3 Regiment (Wattisham Airfield)
- 4 Regiment (Wattisham Airfield)
- 6 Regiment (Blenheim Camp, Bury St Edmunds)
- 7th Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) (Wattisham Airfield)
Royal Air Force
- Support Helicopter Force
- No. 7 Squadron (RAF Odiham) – Chinook
- No. 18 Squadron (RAF Odiham) – Chinook
- No. 22 Squadron (JHC Operational Evaluation Unit) (RAF Benson)
- No. 27 Squadron (RAF Odiham) – Chinook
- No. 28 Squadron (Operational Conversion Unit) (RAF Benson) – Chinook HC4 and Puma HC2
- No. 33 Squadron (RAF Benson) – Puma HC2
- No. 230 Squadron (RAF Benson) – Puma HC2
- Joint Helicopter Support Squadron (RAF Benson)
- Tactical Supply Wing (MOD Stafford)
Commander Joint Helicopter Command has been held by:
- 1999 – 2002 Air Vice-Marshal David Niven
- 2002 – 2005 Air Vice-Marshal Paul Luker
- 2005 – 2008 Major General Gary Coward
- 2008 – 2011 Rear Admiral Tony Johnstone-Burt
- 2011 – 2014 Air Vice-Marshal Carl Dixon
- 2014 – 2017 Major General Richard Felton
- 2017–2020 Rear Admiral Jonathan Pentreath
- 2020–present Air-Vice Marshal Nigel Colman
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