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Commando Helicopter Force

The Fleet Air Arm's Commando Helicopter Force (CHF), otherwise know as 'the Junglies', provides helicopter support for 3 Commando Brigade. The CHF was established in 1997 in order to bring several helicopter squadrons that supported 3 Commando Brigade under a single command.

The CHF is made up of 4 Royal Naval Air squadrons and other elements, all based at RNAS Yeovilton, Somerset:

  • 845 Naval Air Squadron (845 NAS)
    Operates Sea King Mk4 helicopters and provides amphibious transport of men and supplies for 3 Commando Brigade.

    note: 845 NAS is currently out of commision but will eventually reform when it will operate the Merlin helicopter.

  • 846 Naval Air Squadron (846 NAS)
    Has the same role as 846 but now operates Merlin Mk3 helicopters, having transitioned from Sea King in 2014.

  • 847 Naval Air Squadron (847 NAS)
    Operates Wildcat AH Mk1 helicopters, having transitioned in 2015 from Lynx MK9a helicopters. 847's role is that of reconnaisance, ISTAR, control of joint fires, forward air control and light transport.

  • 848 Naval Air Squadron (848 NAS)
    Operates Sea King Mk4 helicopters. 848 NAS was disbanded in 2013 and then reformed in May 2015 to provide Sea King ops while 845 NAS transitions to the Merlin Mk3. Before its disbandment, 848 NAS acted as a training squadron.

    848 NAS currently has a Maritime Counter Terrorism commitment, with a flight of Sea Kings on 24 hour standby. The MCT role will eventually transfer to 846 NAS in late March 2016 when 848 NAS disbands, ending the Sea King's service in CHF. 846 will also take on the role of training CHF Merlin pilots.

  • Combat Service Support Squadron

  • HQ element

The primary role of the CHF is to fly in support to 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines although they also support UKSF operations.

Sea King
A Sea King Mk4 helicopter from 845 Naval Air Squadron flies over snow-covered mountains during Arctic flying training in Norway.
image by POA(Phot) Mez Merrill  | © UK MOD / Crown Copyright 2014
Used under Open Government Licence
Merlin helicopter
A Merlin Mk3 helicopter from 846 NAS trains with Whisky Company, 45 Commando in northern Norway, 2015.
image by POA(Phot) Mez Merrill  | © UK MOD / Crown Copyright 2015
Used under Open Government Licence

The CHF is a self-sufficient force that deploys with its own support elements, in the form of the Combat Service Support Squadron (CSSS). The CSSS includes intelligence, engineering, stores, vehicles and accomodation elements. Of special note is the Mobile Air Operations Team (MAOT), a small unit of Commando-trained and parachute-trained specialists, tasked with on-the-ground support of CHF air assault operations.

more info : Mobile Air Operations Team

Members of the CHF are either Commando Trained or have undergone a specialist five-week military fieldcraft and infantry skills course.

Some notable operations involving the squadrons that make up the CHF include :

  • During the Falklands Conflict, Sea Kings from 846 Squadron, flying at night with newly-aquired Night Vision Goggles (NVGs), inserted SAS/SBS reconnaissance teams onto the islands ahead of the main landings.

    846 Squadron helicopters inserted troops from D Squadron SAS onto Pebble Island for its raid on the Argentine airstrip there.

    The SBS fast-roped from 2 846 Sqn Sea Kings when they stormed an Argentine spy ship, in the first ever helo-ship assault in history.

    A single 846 Sqn Sea King attempted to insert a SAS recon team onto the Argentine mainland.
    more info : Operation Plum Duff

  • Sea Kings delivered SBS sniper/cover teams onto the British Embassy in Kuwait City during the operation to secure it at the end of the 1991 Gulf War.

  • In late 2001, along with Chinooks from 7 Squadron, RAF, CHF Sea Kings flew SAS/SBS teams and follow up support units onto the MV Nisha cargo ship, which was suspected of carrying WMDs towards the English coast.
    more info : the SBS raid the MV Nisha
    (external website)

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