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RAF 47 Squadron - Special Forces Flight

Flying Hercules C-130J transport aircraft, 47 Squadron's Special Forces flight fly airlift and re-supply operations for United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF), often carrying out missions deep into enemy territory.

47 Squadron Roles

Primary roles of the squadron are:

  • Air drop of UKSF parachutists at high, medium and low level
  • Air drop of supplies to forces in the field
  • Boat drop i.e. dropping boats under parachute onto water
  • Resupply/delivery/casevac/recovery of ground units
    (often via ad hoc airstrips)
  • Tactical Air Landing Operations (TALO)
    (facilitating the siezing of airfields by flying UKSF/Paras/RAF Regiment directly onto the runways)

Other roles may include:

  • acting as ALARPs (Air Land Refuel Points)
    (in which C-130Js configured with additional fuel tanks can refuel other aircraft, such as Special Forces Chinooks on the ground)
  • SIGINT (Radio Signals Intelligence)
  • Relaying Voice/Video data for UKSF on the ground
  • submarine rendezvous (dropping parachutists into water close to surfaced subs)

47 Sqn missions often involve flying extremely low and at night to evade detection.

47 Squadron C-130J
A C-130J Hercules from 47 Squadron sits on the pan at MOD St Athan, Wales (St Athan is the home of the Special Forces Support Group).
image by Paul Crouch  | © UK MOD / Crown Copyright 2015
Used under Open Government Licence

47 Squadron Operations

During the Falklands conflict of 1982, 47 Sqn airlifted supplies to Ascension island and later, air dropped men and supplies directly into the South Atlantic. To make the trip from Ascension to the Falklands, several Hercules were given additional fuel tanks and fitted with refueling probes. 47 Sqn also prepared to fly the SAS to Argentina for the aborted Operation Mikado

47 Sqn SF Flight were heavily involved in the 1991 Gulf War. Aside from regular airlift missions, SF Hercules flew dangerous missions behind Iraqi lines, landing on ad hoc desert air strips to resupply SAS fighting columns.

SF Hercs supported UN and NATO operations in the Balkans in the nineties, delivering aid to several besieged cities.

In 2000, 47 Squadron flew aid to war-torn Sierra Leone.

47 Sqn Hercules have been supporting UKSF operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

read more on the : C-130K Hercules (c.1 / c.3) (retired from service in 2013)

read more on the : C-130J Hercules (c.4 / c.5)

47 Squadron RAF cockpit
A view inside the cockpit as members of 47 Squadron RAF land a C-130J at Hurlburt Field, Florida, U.S.A. during Exercise Emerald Warrior 2015.
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Bruch/Released

47 Sqn Losses

June 1999 - during NATO operations in Kosovo, a Sqn 47 C.1 Hercules, reg number XV298, crashed on take off from Kukes airbase in Albania. The SF Hercules was reportedly carrying a number of SAS troops on an urgent mission to reach Pristina Airport before a column of Russian forces arrived. All aboard survived the crash which was caused by a shifting load in the cargo hold.

January 2005 - A Hercules from 47 Squadron was shot down over Iraq whilst supporting the Special Air Service. The Special Forces C-130K C.1, XV179, was reportedly flying low in order to scout out potential landing sites for use as emergency evacuation strips for the SAS forces operating on the ground. The low-flying hercules was hit by enemy fire from the ground which caused a fire to break out onboard which led to structural failure and the eventual crash. Lack of an automatic foam-based fire suppression system, fitted as standard on other country's C-130s, is believed by many to have contributed to the incident. 10 British servicemen died in the incident.

May 2006 - A SF Hercules operated by 47 Sqn crash-landed on a desert air strip in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. The plane, a C-130K C.1, XV206, reportedly hit a mine upon landing and burst into flames. The crew and passengers, which included the British Ambassador to Afghanistan and a number of SBS troops, managed to to escape the fire but the C-130K, 2 SAS 4x4 vehicles and a large quanitiy of cash was destroyed.

February 2007 - One of 47 Squadron's C.4 (C-130J) aircraft, ZH876, was damaged by an IED as it landed on a remote desert air strip in Maysan province, Iraq. British troops were later to destroy the plane on the ground in order to prevent any sensitive equipment from being compromised. The flight was part of re-supply efforts in support of British operations along the border with Iran.

August 2007 - A RAF Special Forces Hercules C.1 (C-130K), XV205, (crash-landed at an ad hoc airstrip in Afghanistan whilst supporting a UKSF operation. As it was not possible to repair or recover the plane, all sensitive equipment was removed before Royal Engineers blew it up.

RAF 47 Squadron Info

motto : "Nili nomen roboris omen"
(The name of the Nile is an omen of our strength)
based at : RAF Lyneham
aircraft : Hercules C-130J (C.4)

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