Joint Helicopter Command

Last updated

Joint Helicopter Command
Joint helicopter command badge.png
Joint Helicopter Command badge
Active5 October 1999 – present
CountryFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
BranchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Naval Service
Flag of the British Army.svg  British Army
Ensign of the Royal Air Force.svg  Royal Air Force
TypeTri-service command
RoleBattlefield helicopter operations
  • 15,000 personnel
  • 239 aircraft
Part of Army Headquarters
Headquarters Marlborough Lines, Andover
Motto(s)Across all boundaries
Current commander Rear Admiral Jonathan Pentreath
Inaugural commander Air-Vice Marshal David Niven

Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) is a tri-service organisation uniting battlefield military helicopters of the British Armed Forces for command and coordination purposes. Joint Helicopter Command reports to Commander Field Army at Andover. [1]




A Royal Navy Westland Sea King HC4 of the Commando Helicopter Force, seen in Norway during Arctic flying training in 2012. Royal Navy Sea King Mk4 HelicopterConducting Arctic Training in Norway MOD 45153643.jpg
A Royal Navy Westland Sea King HC4 of the Commando Helicopter Force, seen in Norway during Arctic flying training in 2012.

Over the years, the grouping of all battlefield support helicopters operated by the Fleet Air Arm, Army Air Corps and Royal Air Force into one of the services had been discussed, however the Ministry of Defence (MOD) believed that any advantages would be outweighed by the damaging impact such a re-organisation would have on ethos, morale and operational effectiveness. [2]

The Strategic Defence Review (SDR), published by the MOD in July 1998, announced that a Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) would be formed, which would deliver training, standards, doctrinal development and support for operations in order to maximise the availability of battlefield helicopters and reinforce their growing importance in military operations. JHC would be a tri-Service organisation, with personnel remaining part of their parent service. [3] The formation of JHC was considered by the MOD as one of the most important initiatives to result from the SDR. [4] The command was expected to draw on the equipment, personnel and expertise of the single services and be charged with providing the Joint Force Commander tailored packages of battlefield helicopters (from one or more service), support equipment and personnel, to meet operational requirements. The MOD's intention was to provide a single focus for the transfer of best practice from service to service and for removing, over time, differences in extant operating procedures. [2]

A Joint Helicopter Command Study Team was established to determine how JHC should operate. Four options for the location of JHC Headquarters were also examined, with RNAS Yeovilton in Somerset, AAC Netheravon in Wiltshire, HQ Land Command at Erskine Barracks in Wiltshire and RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, being considered for the role. [3]


Joint Helicopter Command was formed on 5 October 1999, bringing together the Navy's commando helicopters, the Army's attack and light utility helicopters, and the RAF's support helicopters. [5] The Royal Navy's anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare and airborne early warning helicopters, and RN and RAF search and rescue helicopters, were not included in JHC and remained under the control of the respective services. [3] JHC Headquarters was established alongside HQ Land Command at Erskine Barracks, with Air-Vice Marshal David Niven being the inaugural commander. [6] [7]

In 2007, JHC had over 15,000 personnel under its command, some 8,000 of who were part of 16 Air Assault Brigade This included over 900 volunteer reserves from the Territorial Army and Royal Auxiliary Air Force, and 380 MOD civilians. [8]

Joint Helicopter Command's largest operation to date has been Operation Telic, the invasion of Iraq. Following the invasion, Joint Helicopter Command maintained units in Iraq, in support of British and coalition forces deployed there. [9] Another detachment was also maintained in Afghanistan, as part of Operation Herrick. [10]

Role and operations

The majority of the United Kingdom's military helicopters come under JHC, although exceptions include the Royal Navy's fleet helicopters and the Defence Helicopter Flying School.


Rear Admiral Jonathan Pentreath became commander of Joint Helicopter Command in April 2017. JHC is part of Army Headquarters and has its headquarters at the British Army's Marlborough Lines, Andover in Hampshire. [11]

A Lynx AH9A from 847 Naval Air Squadron, conducting dust landings at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California. Lynx Mk9A Helicopter at Naval Air Facility El Centro, USA MOD 45154523.jpg
A Lynx AH9A from 847 Naval Air Squadron, conducting dust landings at Naval Air Facility El Centro, California.

Joint Helicopter Force (US)

Since 2009, the US Navy station Naval Air Facility El Centro (NAFEC) in California has been home to Joint Helicopter Force (US), an element of JHC which provides pre-deployment and desert environmental qualification training. The deserts of Southern California have temperatures and terrain closely resembling those of Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, where British helicopters have been on operational duty in recent years. [12]

Former Deployments

Joint Helicopter Force (Northern Ireland)

For a period, the helicopters of the various Services deployed in Northern Ireland, in support of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and military units, were termed the JHF (NI). JHF(NI) comprised the following units, based at Flying Station Aldergrove:

Joint Helicopter Force (Iraq)

When deployed on a major operational deployment the aircraft and supporting assets are assigned to a Joint Helicopter Force, for example Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan) during Operation Herrick in Afghanistan.

The following types were deployed to Iraq under JHF (I): [13]

Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan)

The following types were deployed to Afghanistan under JHF (A):


An overview of formations from each service under Joint Helicopter Command. [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24]

Royal Navy

Fleet Air Arm

British Army

Army Air Corps

Royal Artillery

Royal Air Force

Senior Commanders

JHC is commanded by a two-star officer from either the Royal Navy, British Army or Royal Air Force. [25]

Commander Joint Helicopter Command has been held by:


UKOpenGovernmentLicence.svg  This article incorporates text published under the British Open Government Licence  v3.0: Ministry of Defence (July 1998). "Strategic Defence Review" (PDF). Retrieved 21 April 2019.

Related Research Articles

Army Air Corps (United Kingdom) aviation component of the British Army

The Army Air Corps (AAC) is a component of the British Army, first formed in 1942 during the Second World War by grouping the various airborne units of the British Army. Today, there are eight regiments of the AAC as well as four Independent Flights and two Independent Squadrons deployed in support of British Army operations across the world. They are located in Britain, Brunei, Canada, and Germany. Some AAC squadrons provide the air assault elements of 16 Air Assault Brigade through Joint Helicopter Command.

RAF Odiham Royal Air Force main operating base in Hampshire, England

Royal Air Force Odiham or more simply RAF Odiham is a Royal Air Force station situated a little to the south of the historic village of Odiham in Hampshire, England. It is the home of the Royal Air Force's heavy lift helicopter, the Chinook. Its current station commander is Group Captain Nicholas Knight OBE RAF.

RAF Benson Royal Air Force main operating base in Oxfordshire, England.

Royal Air Force Benson or RAF Benson is a Royal Air Force (RAF) station located at Benson, near Wallingford, in South Oxfordshire, England. It is a Main Operating Base of the RAF and home to its fleet of Westland Puma HC2 support helicopters, comprising No. 33 Squadron and No. 230 Squadron. Other flying units comprise No. 28 Squadron which is the combined Puma and Boeing Chinook HC4 operational conversion unit, the Oxford University Air Squadron and No. 6 Air Experience Flight both flying the Grob Tutor T1. The National Police Air Service and the Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance are also based at the station, both operating the Airbus H135 helicopter.

Joint Helicopter Command Flying Station Aldergrove

Joint Helicopter Command Flying Station Aldergrove or more simply JHC FS Aldergrove is located 4.4 miles (7.1 km) south of Antrim, Northern Ireland and 18 miles (29 km) northwest of Belfast and adjoins Belfast International Airport. It is sometimes referred to simply as Aldergrove which is the name of a nearby village. The military flying units share the Aldergrove runways but have their own separate facilities and helipad.

RNAS Yeovilton (HMS <i>Heron</i>) Royal Naval Air Station in Somerset, England, United Kingdom

Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton, or RNAS Yeovilton, is an airfield of the Royal Navy and British Army, sited a few miles north of Yeovil, Somerset. It is one of two active Fleet Air Arm bases and is currently home to the Royal Navy Wildcat HMA2 and Army Air Corps Wildcat AH1 helicopters as well as the Royal Navy's Commando Helicopter Force Merlin HCi3/3A/4 and Wildcat AH1 helicopters.

Boeing Chinook (UK variants) Series of military transport helicopters

The Boeing Chinook is a large, tandem rotor helicopter operated by the Royal Air Force (RAF). A series of variants based on the United States Army's Boeing CH-47 Chinook, the RAF Chinook fleet is the largest outside the United States. RAF Chinooks have seen extensive service in the Falklands War, the Balkans, Northern Ireland, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

No. 78 Squadron RAF Defunct flying squadron of the Royal Air Force

No. 78 Squadron of the Royal Air Force operated the Merlin HC3/3A transport helicopter from RAF Benson. Until December 2007 it was the operator of two Westland Sea King HAR3s from RAF Mount Pleasant, Falkland Islands.

Sembawang Air Base Military airbase of the Republic of Singapore Air Force

Sembawang Air Base is a military airbase of the Republic of Singapore Air Force located at Sembawang, in the northern part of Singapore. The base motto is Dare and Will.

Joint Helicopter Support Squadron

The Joint Helicopter Support Squadron (JHSS) is a joint organisation of the British Army and the Royal Air Force, located at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire.

Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) is a unit of the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm and an element of the Joint Helicopter Command of the British Armed Forces. Its primary role is to provide Rotary-Wing (helicopter) support to 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines and other UK force elements in the amphibious environment. CHF uses a combination of transport helicopters based at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in Somerset, England.

663 Squadron AAC is a flying unit of the British Army's Army Air Corps (AAC).

Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing

The Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing (JSFAW) is a Royal Air Force and British Army organisation that coordinates the provision of aviation support to the United Kingdom Special Forces.

Wattisham Airfield airport in the United Kingdom

Wattisham Airfield is the biggest centralised operational Army Airfield in the UK, located next to the small village of Wattisham in Suffolk, England. It is home to 3 Regiment Army Air Corps and 4 Regiment Army Air Corps. They are part of the Attack Helicopter Force (AHF) within the Joint Helicopter Command (JHC), whose headquarters is at Army Headquarters. They fly the Westland WAH-64 Apache helicopter.

Air Marshal Sir Barry Mark "Baz" North, is a senior Royal Air Force officer, who served as Deputy Commander (Personnel) at RAF Air Command. A helicopter pilot, North has held command appointments at all levels, notably No. 78 Squadron in the Falkland Islands, the Special Forces Flight as a squadron leader and the newly established No. 83 Expeditionary Air Group in the Middle East as an air commodore.

6 Regiment Army Air Corps is the sole Army Reserve regiment of the British Army Air Corps (AAC). The regiment operates in a groundcrew role, providing support to Army Aviation units of the Joint Helicopter Command.

No. 903 Expeditionary Air Wing is an Expeditionary Air Wing of the Royal Air Force. It is currently based at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus and is tasked with conducting operations against ISIL in Iraq & Syria

No. 1563 Flight RAF

No. 1563 Flight RAF was an independent flight of the British Royal Air Force (RAF). 1563 flt operated Westland Puma HC.1 helicopters on tactical support missions for locally garrisoned British Army units, as well as Belize Defence Force units in Belize, from 1975 to around 1993. Previously 1563 Flt was stationed at RAF Akrotiri flying Westland Whirlwind HAR.10 helicopters on support missions for locally garrisoned British Army and United Nations troops.

This is the Operation Herrick aerial order of battle, which lists any aerial or airfield protection units of the British armed forces that have taken part in the duration of Operation Herrick between 2002 and 2014.

At the end of the Cold War in 1989 the Royal Air Force structure was as follows:

Structure of the British Armed Forces in 1989

At the end of the Cold War in 1989 the British Armed Forces structure was as follows:



  1. "Army: Who We Are". British Army. 21 April 2019. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  2. 1 2 Ministry of Defence 1998, p. 200.
  3. 1 2 3 Ministry of Defence 1998, p. 281.
  4. Ministry of Defence 1998, p. 282.
  5. "RN/RAF support helicopter programmes merge". Flight Global. Reed Business Information Limited. 13 October 1999. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  6. "Joint Helicopter Command Headquarters". Ministry of Defence. Archived from the original on 5 March 2007. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  7. "British Military Aviation in 1999". RAF Museum. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  8. "Joint Helicopter Command (JHC)". Ministry of Defence. Archived from the original on 5 March 2007. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  9. Ripley, Tim (2004). "Air War Iraq". Pen & Sword. ISBN   978-1844150694.
  10. "Rare insight into the Royal Navy's Commando Helicopter Force". 21 February 2016.
  11. "A New Commanding Officer at the helm". Royal Navy. Retrieved 30 December 2017.
  12. Copalman, Joe (April 2017). "Desert Dust-Ups". Air Forces Monthly. 349: 41.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 "Operation Telic 2" (PDF). Operation Telic. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  14. "Operation Telic 9" (PDF). Operation Telic. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  15. "Operation Telic 3" (PDF). Operation Telic. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  16. "Operation Telic 6" (PDF). Operation Telic. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  17. 1 2 3 March 2008, p. 8.
  18. 1 2 "Operation HERRICK, Afghanistan". Royal Air Force. Archived from the original on 26 June 2017. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  19. Heyman, Charles (2013). The Armed Forces of the United Kingdom 2014–2015. Barnsley: Pen & Sword Books Ltd. pp. 179–180. ISBN   178346351-1.
  20. "Commando Helicopter Force". Royal Navy. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  21. "Formations, Divisions and Brigades – Joint Helicopter Command". British Army. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  22. "JHC FS Aldergrove". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  23. "RAF Benson". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  24. "RAF Odiham". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  25. "Senior tri-service and Ministry of Defence Posts" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 1 April 2017.