No. 657 Squadron AAC
No. 657 Squadron AAC was a squadron of the British Army's Army Air Corps (AAC), part of the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing based at RAF Odiham. The squadron disbanded in May 2018 after the retirement of the Westland Lynx.
|No. 657 Squadron AAC|
|Active||1 January 1973 – May 2018|
|Part of||Army Air Corps|
|Motto(s)||Latin: Per terras perque caelum|
(Translation: "By land and sky")
No. 657 Squadron AAC was formed on 1 January 1973 as part of 1 Regiment AAC. The squadron served in Northern Ireland based at Shackleton Barracks. On 1 March 1978, No. 665 Squadron AAC was re-designated as 657 Squadron based at Kirkee Barracks in Colchester. In July 1990, the squadron relinquished its independent status by becoming part of 9 Regiment AAC and moved to Oakington in Cambridgeshire and then in February 1991 to Dishforth Airfield in North Yorkshire.
In June 2000, the squadron once again became independent when it moved to RAF Odiham in Hampshire. In September 2000, two Westland Lynx helicopters took part in Operation Barras in Sierra Leone. In April 2001, the squadron became part of the newly formed Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing.
On 26 April 2014, a Lynx crashed in Takhta Pul district of Kandahar Province, killing all five British personnel on board. They were Captain Thomas Clarke, Warrant Officer 2 Spencer Faulkner and Corporal James Walters of the Army Air Corps, Flight Lieutenant Rakesh Chauhan of the Royal Air Force and Lance Corporal Oliver Thomas of the Intelligence Corps. As at 28 April 2014, the cause was described as an "accident", despite Taliban claims that they had caused the crash. The purpose of the mission has speculated upon, but has been described as a "routine training mission". The site, variously described as "close to Kandahar base" and "30 miles from the Pakistani border", had been "secured" for recovery of the bodies and aircraft.
A full report into the accident was published in July 2015, by the Ministry of Defence and the Military Aviation Authority. The Service Inquiry revealed "procedural drift", which allowed standards to dilute during sustained operations in theatre, to be a major factor. The SI Panel also commented that the crew may also have been distracted trying to establish visual contact with a second Lynx helicopter and that the radar altimeter was not being used effectively as the 'bugged' setting was too low to initiate a recovery in a descent. It was being routinely set lower than required by the standard operating procedures without challenge. The report also highlighted that the pilot had had less than six hours sleep the previous night and was possibly fatigued.
Plans to purchase modified AgustaWestland Wildcat helicopters to replace the Lynx in the special forces role were dropped due to budget constraints. The squadron's special forces role has therefore been taken over by a flight of special forces-trained personnel within the existing Wildcat fleet.
- "657 Squadron Army Air Corps". British Army. Archived from the original on 11 May 2008.
- "JSFAW - Responsibilities and Composition". Royal Air Force. Archived from the original on 27 February 2014.
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- Fowler, William (2010). Certain Death in Sierra Leone – The SAS and Operation Barras 2000. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 9781846038501.
- "Army's most skilled pilots among five killed in Afghanistan helicopter crash". London: Daily Telegraph. 28 April 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
- "Afghanistan helicopter crash personnel named by MoD". London: BBC. 27 April 2014. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
- "Service Inquiry: accident involving Lynx Mk 9 ZF540 on 26 April 2014 - Publications". GOV.UK. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
- "'Procedural Drift': Lynx CFIT in Afghanistan". Aerossurance. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
- Banner, David (17 January 2018). "Pride and sadness as Lynx bows out at RAF Shawbury". Shropshire Star. Retrieved 17 July 2018.
- Ripley, Tim (12 September 2017). "UK reorganises special forces aviation". Jane's 360. Retrieved 13 February 2018.