Joint Helicopter Command

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]

Joint Helicopter Command
Joint Helicopter Command badge
Active5 October 1999 – present
Country United Kingdom
Branch Naval Service
 British Army
 Royal Air Force
TypeTri-service command
RoleBattlefield helicopter operations
  • 15,000 personnel
  • 239 aircraft
Part ofArmy Headquarters
HeadquartersMarlborough Lines, Andover
Motto(s)Across all boundaries
Current commanderRear Admiral Jonathan Pentreath
Inaugural commanderAir-Vice Marshal David Niven



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]

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:


 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.



  1. "Army: Who We Are". British Army. 21 April 2019. Retrieved 21 April 2019.
  2. Ministry of Defence 1998, p. 200.
  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. "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. March 2008, p. 8.
  18. "Operation HERRICK, Afghanistan". Royal Air Force. 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.


  • March, P (2008). The Royal Air Force Yearbook 2008. Fairford, UK: The Royal Air Force Charitable Trust Enterprises.
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