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3 Commando Brigade Developing Joint Personnel Recovery


3 Commando Brigade (3 CDO BDE) is developing the UK's Joint Personnel Recovery (JPR) capability.

Personnel Recovery, refers to rescuing aircrew or soldiers who are isolated, missing, detained or captured in an operational environment. This typically entails a deploying a rescue package that includes helicopters for the extraction of the personnel. These carry a Ground Extraction Force (GEF) of troops trained to secure the landing zone and locate and extract the target personnel. Medics will typically be on hand to treatwith any injured parties. Supporting units such as close air support and reconnaissance assets may also be deployed.

Several official MoD social media accounts have recently reported on Royal Navy efforts to develop a JPR capability. A tweet by the Twitter account for the Commanding Officer Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) said:

Aside from the display of firepower in the form of GPMGs mounted on the Merlin's rear ramp and at the starboard cabin opening, of interest in the photo show in the above tweet is what appears to be an in-flight refueling probe. Britain does not currently have the capability to refuel helicopters mid-air, however they may be looking at inter-operability with partner nations such as fellow NATO members.

A recent post to the Royal Navy Youtube channel showed Royal Marines with Lima Company 42 Commando training with U.S. forces for the JPR role.

42 Commando recently reorganized for its role as Maritime Operations Commando (MOC). Elements of 42 Commando will be embarked on the Royal Navy's new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers. Their role will include providing JPR coverage, presumably with airlift from CHF Merlin HC4 helicopters. Reconnaissance support may be provided by 847 Sqn CHF's Wildcat AH1 helicopters. If embarked with the Maritime Task Group, Army Air Corps Apache AH1 helicopters may provide close air support for any JPR operation. The MOC JPR team may also be called on to retrieve sensitive equipment from hostile territory.

Merline HC3
A Commando Helicopter Force Merlin HC3 helicopter. By the time the first carrier comes online, the CHF Merlins will all been upgraded to HC4 standard and painted in a grey colour scheme. The Merlin features a rescue hoist that can winch personnel aboard from terrain unsuitable for landing on.
photo by Flickr user Samwise24 used via Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license

Puma HC2
A door gunner mans a GPMG 7.62x51mm belt-fed machine gun mounted in a Merlin HC3's starboard cabin doorway. Any hostile forces in the vicinity of an extraction zone will need to be dealth with, either with firepower organic to the extraction helicopter (GEF / GPMGs) or via close air support assets.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by MCIPAC Combat Camera Lance Cpl. Caleb T. Maher

Further confirmation of the JPR development comes in a report by Janes IHS that states that 3 Commando Brigade has established a Personnel Recovery Co-ordination Cell (PRCC) within the brigade. [1] The PRCC is a tactical level command element that co-ordinates, conducts and controls PR operations for a given area of operation.

HMS Queen Elizabeth
HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first of 2 new aircraft carriers to be constructed. HMS Queen Elizabeth is currently undergoing sea trails, working up to reaching operational capability in 2020. The 2nd carrier, HMS Prince Of Wales, will come into service in 2023. Elements of 42 Commando and the Commando Helicopter Force will be embarked on the carriers, ready to carry out a rescue mission for downed aircrew or other personnel.
Image by Sgt Mitch Moore RAF © UK MOD / Crown Copyright 2015 | used under open government licence

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