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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.

Merlin and Wildcat helicopter
The Commando Helicopter support flies Merlin and Wildcat helicopters in support of 3 Commando Brigade

The CHF is made up of 3 Royal Naval Air squadrons and other elements, all based at RNAS Yeovilton, Somerset:

  • 845 Naval Air Squadron (845 NAS)
    845 NAS operates Merlin helicopters, providing amphibious transport of men and supplies for 3 Commando Brigade. The squadron has a flight of Merlin Mk4s embarked on the carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth.

    note: both 845 and 846 NAS used to operate the Sea King Mk4 helicopter.

  • 846 Naval Air Squadron (846 NAS)
    846 NAS has two main roles. One is operational conversion training, i.e. training new Merlin pilots and aircrewmen, and developing tactics and procedures.

    846 NAS also keeps a maritime counter terrorism (MCT) flight of Merlin helicopters at very high readiness for UKSF MCT tasking. The MCT commitment was previously maintained by 848 NAS, which operated the Sea King Mk4. 848 NAS disbanded in 2016.

  • 847 Naval Air Squadron (847 NAS)
    Operates Wildcat AH Mk1 helicopters, having transitioned in 2015 from Lynx AH9A helicopters. 847's role is that of reconnaisance, ISTAR, control of joint fires, forward air control and light transport.

  • Combat Service Support Squadron CHF support elements that include engineering, intelligence, logistics etc.
    (more info)

  • HQ element

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

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

Wildcat ah1 helicopter
Wildcat AH1 helicopters.

Combat Service Support Squadron

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.

Sea King
A Sea King HC4 helicopter from 845 Naval Air Squadron flies over snow-covered mountains during Arctic flying training in Norway. The last Sea Kings were retired from CHF service in March 2016.
image by POA(Phot) Mez Merrill  | © UK MOD / Crown Copyright 2014
Used under Open Government Licence

Commando Helicopter Force - Operations

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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