No. 660 Squadron AAC
No. 660 Squadron AAC (660 Sqn) is a squadron of the British Army's Army Air Corps (AAC). The squadron traces its lineage to a Royal Air Force squadron that existed during the Second World War. In the late 1950s the squadron's numerical was transferred to the AAC and since its formation in 1969, it has operated as a British Army unit flying various types of battlefield helicopters. The squadron has been re-formed and disbanded on a number of occasions. The squadron is currently based at RAF Shawbury where it forms part of the Defence Helicopter Flying School, but it has been deployed operationally to Northern Ireland, Hong Kong and Brunei throughout its existence.
|No. 660 Squadron AAC|
1 Nov 1997 – present
|Part of||Army Air Corps|
The squadron's numerical designation was first used by No. 660 Squadron RAF, a Royal Air Force squadron which served from 31 July 1943 until 31 May 1946 operating from bases in England, France and Germany. Its duties and squadron number were transferred to the AAC upon the corps' formation on 1 September 1957. No. 660 Sqn was subsequently re-formed in October 1969 adopting the designation of No. 660 Aviation Squadron AAC. Based at Topcliffe and equipped with Westland (Agusta-Bell) Sioux AH.1 and Westland Scout AH.1s, it formed part of 2 Regiment Army Air Corps (2 Regt. AAC).
The squadron moved to Salamanca Barracks, at Soest-Bad Sassendorf Airfield in 1971, becoming part of 4 Regiment Army Air Corps (4 Regt AAC) the following year. In January 1973, it was renamed 660 Squadron AAC and in May 1974, while a Salamanca Barracks, it was the first unit to receive the Westland Gazelle AH.1 for operational service in May 1974. A Scout Flight was later swapped with No. 654 Squadron AAC in October 1977, making it an entirely Gazelle squadron. The squadron was then assigned to 3 Regiment Army Air Corps (3 Regt. AAC).
On 1 April 1978, the squadron was re-designated as No. 663 Squadron AAC (663 Sqn), and its personnel and equipment were transferred to the new squadron which was based at Salamanca Barracks. Later that same year, No. 660 Squadron was re-formed at Sek Kong in Hong Kong equipped with the Scout AH.1. Its roles included observation/reconnaissance and providing a troop-lift capability on the Hong Kong–Chinese border. It also provided anti-smuggling and immigration-control capabilities and supported Army exercises, being heavily involved in stemming the flood of illegal-immigrants from the People's Republic of China (PRC). In 1984, the squadron had a complement of 12 Scouts and 80 men; of these, two Scouts and 18 men were based at Seria in Brunei.
The Army Air Corps in the Far East had been centralised in 1969 when various flights, troops and Gurkha air platoons were amalgamated, resulting in the re-formation of No. 656 (Independent) Squadron AAC (656 Sqn) in October 1969. One Gurkha air platoon, based with the Gurkha battalion at Seria, remained as an air platoon for a while and then became C Flight 656 Sqn, then Brunei Detachment 660 Sqn in 1978, then C Flight 660 Sqn in 1979. The reorganization and increase in unit size required the squadron to be housed at Sek Kong.
In the spring of 1970, the Sioux helicopters were supplemented by Scouts. The Siouxs were then phased out, with their last flights in Hong Kong being undertaken towards the end of 1974 when they were replaced by Gazelles. By the end of 1975 the Gazelle had been found unsuitable for Hong Kong, and they were returned to the UK, leaving the squadron with just its Scout helicopters. The Siouxs, reputed to be the last in the AAC, were flown in Brunei until 1978 when they were also exchanged with Scouts.
660 Sqn operated at Sek Kong until 1994, when it was disbanded as part of the preparations for the hand over of the Hong Kong Crown Protectorate to the People's Republic of China (PRC). The squadron, 50 years old at the time, was believed to be the last overseas unit using Scout helicopters.
The Defence Helicopter Flying School concept was born during the Defence Cost Study of 1994, leading to the selection of a single site for basic helicopter training using contractor-owned aircraft and a proportion of civilian (ex-military) flying instructors. The squadron was reformed again in April 1997, as one of two single-engine rotary-wing squadrons of the tri-service Defence Helicopter Flying School, based at RAF Shawbury. 660 Sqn AAC is commanded by an Army major and equipped with civilian-owned Eurocopter Squirrel HT.1s.
In October 1996, a contract had been placed with FBS, a company formed between Flight Refuelling Aviation, Bristows Helicopters Ltd and SERCo. This 15-year contract not only covered the engineering and supply aspects already in place, but also included the provision of the 35 Squirrel and Griffin helicopters for the Defence Helicopter Flying School at Shawbury. In practice, FBS now sub-contracts the support of the DHFS and RAF Shawbury to FB Heli Services (formerly FR Aviation Services) thus maintaining the partnership between the company and RAF Shawbury forged over the 5 years previous to that contract. Also included in the contract was the provision of 40% of the helicopter instructors, operations-support staff and flight-systems operators in the Central Air Traffic Control School.
Cobham was awarded a £193m four-year contract in 2012 to provide helicopter flying training at RAF Shawbury, RAF Valley and AAC Middle Wallop, together with support services at RAF Shawbury and AAC Middle Wallop. The contract extended the previously existing Defence Helicopter Flying School and support services contract, which had been undertaken by FBS Ltd and FB Heliservices Ltd for the previous 15 years. At RAF Shawbury, Cobham is currently responsible for the majority of the base and operational services, which support ongoing operational activities.
In September 2014, it was announced that a new contractor was being sought to run the UK's helicopter training organisation to replace the existing operation at RAF Shawbury. The new Rotary Wing Training Programme (part of the UK Military Flying Training System) is to replace the current Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS) out-sourcing contract, which has been in place since 1997. The MoD anticipates selecting the winning bid in 2016, with the new service to become operational in 2018.
- Halley 1988, pp. 444–451.
- Jefford 2001, pp. 102–104.
- Helis 2014.
- A. Young 2014.
- QRA Magazin 2013.
- UK MoD 2014.
- Kneen & Sutton 1997, pp. 331–332.
- Kneen & Sutton 1997, p. 331.
- Kneen & Sutton 1997, p. 335.
- Laxton 1993.
- Clarke 1993.
- RAF Shawbury 2014.
- RAF Shawbury: Contractors 2014.
- The Business Desk 2012.
- Cobham 2014.
- Tim Ripley 2014.
- Dominic Perry 2014.
- Halley, James J. (1988). The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force & Commonwealth 1918–1988. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air Britain (Historians) Ltd. ISBN 0-85130-164-9.
- Jefford, C.G. (2001). RAF Squadrons: A Comprehensive Record of the Movement and Equipment of all RAF Squadrons and their Antecedents Since 1912 (second ed.). Shrewsbury, Shropshire, UK: Airlife Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-85310-053-6.
- Kneen, J M.; Sutton, D J (1997). Craftsmen of the Army: The Story of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Vol II 1969-1992. Pen and Sword. ISBN 9781473813403. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
Newspapers and magazines
- Laxton, Andrew (19 September 1993). "Grounded Wessex hit island ridge". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
- Clarke, Rachel (15 October 1993). "660 Squadron named as first unit to disband". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
- The Business Desk (6 March 2012). "Cobham's FB Heliservices wins £193m MoD contract". The Business Desk. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
- Tim Ripley (9 September 2014). "UK seeks new contractor for helicopter training". Jane's. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
- Dominic Perry (10 September 2014). "UK MoD begins training helicopter acquisition". Flight Global. Retrieved 4 October 2014.
- Helis (2014). "660 squadron Army Air Corps 1943 to present". helis.com. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
- A. Young (2014). "660 Squadron". british-army-units1945on.co.uk. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
- QRA Magazin (2013). "Army Air Corps in Germany". qra-magazin.de. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
- UK MoD (2014). "4 Regiment Army Air Corps". army.mod.uk/. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
- RAF Shawbury (2014). "RAF Shawbury: Defence Helicopter Flying School". raf.mod.uk. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
- RAF Shawbury: Contractors (2014). "RAF Shawbury: Contractors". Retrieved 29 September 2014.