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Mobile Air Operations Team

The Mobile Air Operations Team (MAOT) is an elite Royal Navy unit that provides specialized assistance to the Commando Helicopter Force (CHF).

The MAOT helps select helicopter landing sites (HLS) and marshal CHF air assault operations. This is achieved by examining satellite imagery and/or a recce of the HLS in question, and by accompanying the assault force on to the objective. Royal Navy Commandos and Royal Marines from the MAOT may attach to recce units such as 3 Commando Brigade's Brigade Reconnaissance Force (BRF) in order to recce a proposed HLS and to bring the aircraft in. In the case of a recce by satellite photo only, MAOT personnel will deploy with the assault force onto the HLS. Once the force has landed, MAOTs stand ready to organize casualty evacuation flights and to direct the subsequent extraction of ground forces by helicopter.

The CHF's MAOT is a small unit that comprises of just 16 men, split into 3 operational teams and an HQ element. Each operational team is further split into 2-man pairs who share the duties when deployed. The operational teams rotate through 4-month tours in 3 different roles: Afghan, Green and Black.

  • Afghan : deployed as part of the Joint Helicopter Force (JHF) in Helmand Province
  • Green : providing support to 3 Commando Brigade
  • Black : in this role MAOT personnel attach to a maritime counter-terrorism or counter-piracy force. In this role the MAOT will help plan and coordinate the helicopter insertion and extraction aspect of the operation. A MAOT element will typically follow the assault team onto the maritime objective in order to marshal the air traffic to ensure that all personnel - troops, hostages and captured enemy forces - are extracted.

All members of the MAOT are Commando Trained and come from an aviation background. Royal Navy personnel in the team must have passed the All Arms Commando Course. They are also trained in basic parachuting and helicopter insertion techniques such as fast-roping and abseiling. The unit also has a training role in which it runs refresher courses in such insertion skills. MAOTs also receive ISTAR (information surveillance target aquisition reconnaissance) training.

MAOT Operations

In 2003, during the opening stages of the invasion of Iraq, MAOT personnel attached to U.S. Navy SEALs as they inserted into the Al Faw Peninsula, where they recced proposed helicopter landing sites for 3 Commando Brigade.

MAOTs have carried out numerous operations in Afghanistan, where helicopter assaults are common.

Mobile Air Operations Team
A Royal Marines Commando with the Commando Helicopter Force Mobile Air Operations Team (MAOT) uses a radio to direct CHF Sea King Mk4 helicopters coming in to land at a helicopter landing site.
Image by POA(Phot) Mez Merrill | © UK MOD / Crown Copyright 2016
Used under Open Government Licence

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