The Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) was formed in 1999 to bring together under one command the Battlefield Helicopters and Air Assault Force Elements of the Royal Navy/Marines, Army and Royal Air Force (RAF).
The JHC operates 239 Forward Fleet aircraft including the Sea King and Lynx helicopters of the Royal Navy's Commando Helicopter Force, the Chinook, Puma and Merlin helicopters of the RAF and the Apache, Lynx, Gazelle and Bell 212 helicopters and the Islander fixed wing aircraft of the Army Air Corps (AAC).
16 Air Assault Brigade
The principal Army formation under command is 16 Air Assault Brigade, the newest and largest brigade in the British Army. Formed in 1999 and based in Colchester, the brigade has already served in Macedonia, Iraq and Afghanistan. 16 Brigade is the Army's primary rapid reaction formation, equipped and manned so that it can be used throughout the spectrum of conflict from humanitarian tasks, such as disaster relief at one extreme, through to high intensity war-fighting at the other.
Commando Helicopter Force;
The Commando Helicopter Force based at the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton is equipped with Lynx and Sea King helicopters. The Commando Helicopter Force is primarily a maritime force that is trained, equipped and organised for expeditionary joint operations.
JHC front-line elements;
The JHC includes all front-line elements of the Army Air Corps (AAC). 1 and 5 Regiments AAC are based at Turnhill and Canterbury respectively. 3, 4 and 9 Regiments AAC are part of 16 Air Assault Brigade. 6 and 7 Regiments AAC are TA regiments. 7 Regiment AAC (V) operate the Bell 212 out of Brunei and the newly created 6 Regiment AAC (V) is based at Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. In addition to the regiments, the Army Air Corps have a number of independent flights under the command of JHC. These are based in Canada, Belize and Brunei.
RAF Support Helicopter Force;
The RAF Support Helicopter Force operates under the command of JHC and includes the Chinook, based at RAF Odiham (Hampshire) and the Puma and Merlin Squadrons based at the RAF Benson (Oxfordshire). Tactical communications support for the Support Helicopter Force is provided by 21 (Air Support) Signal Regiment based at Colerne, near Bath. The provision of aviation fuel to deployed battlefield helicopters is the responsibility of the RAF Tactical Supply Wing based at RAF Stafford.
The JHC operates over 250 aircraft including the Sea King and Lynx helicopters of the Royal Navy's Commando Helicopter Force; the Chinook, Puma and Merlin helicopters of the RAF and the Apache, Lynx, Gazelle and Bell 212 helicopters and the Islander fixed wing aircraft of the AAC.
The Apache is the only attack helicopter in service with the British Army. Carrying a mix of weapons including rockets, Hellfire missiles and a 30mm chain gun, the Apache provides a state of the art weapons system at the fore front of military technology.
The Lynx is used by both the Army and the Commando Helicopter Force. It is predominantly a battlefield utility helicopter but can be used for both anti-tank and reconnaissance operations
The Gazelle; (UPDATE; Now retired from service)
The Gazelle has been in service since 1973, it has proved a very reliable observation and reconnaisance helicopter for many years. Although having only one engine it is not as powerful as many others, but its light weight chassis offsets any deficits it might have.
Merlin Mk 3;
The Merlin Mk 3 is the first of the next generation of medium-support helicopters for the RAF. Highly adaptable, it can carry up to 24 fully-equipped troops, ammunition and stores, and it can also be used for casualty evacuation.
The Sea King Mk 4;
The Sea King Mk 4 of the Commando Helicopter Force is a troop carrying variant developed by Westlands from the original anti-submarine version. The Sea King can carry 27 fully armed troops and underslung loads. It is well suited to deck operations and has a limited ability to fly in icing conditions.
The Chinook is used by the RAF primarily for trooping and load carrying, both internal and underslung, and can carry up to 54 troops or 10 tonnes of freight. The cabin is large enough to accommodate 2 Land Rovers, while the 3 underslung load hooks allow flexibility in the type and number of loads that can be carried.