Tuesday, June 8, 2010

RAF CH47 Chinook Returns from service on Oeration Herrick in Afghanistan


A veteran Chinook helicopter from the Falklands campaign has just returned from service on OPERATION HERRICK in Afghanistan. Almost thirty years since it entered service, ZA718 or ‘Bravo November’ as it is better known remains at the forefront of Royal Air Force Support Helicopter operations.

The original aircraft, a Mk1 (HC1) came into service in 1982 and was the sole survivor of OPERATION CORPORATE. Three other Chinooks were shipped down to the Falkland Islands, however, they were lost when the MV Atlantic Conveyer was sunk by an Argentine exocet missile on 25 May 1982. Bravo November was airborne from the Atlantic Conveyer on an air test at the time and therefore diverted to land on HMS Hermes.

Bravo November has been subject to numerous upgrades during her service and with upgraded engines and avionics is now the impressive HC2 version. Having been rebuilt several times during her service, few parts of the original aircraft survive today, however, the main fuselage, the manufacturers data plate in the cockpit and the RAF’s serial number ZA718 clearly emblazoned on the rear of the aircraft remain ever present.

The Chinook fleet is a vital element of the lift capability being undertaken by the Joint Helicopter Force (Afghanistan) under the command of Wing Commander ‘Spats’ Patterson. The Tri-Service detachment comprises personnel from all three Services and operates Chinook, Sea King, Merlin, Lynx and Apache helicopters.

During Bravo November’s last tour of duty in Afghanistan she has been supporting the coalition forces that comprise the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Flight Lieutenant Leon Fisher a Chinook pilot in Afghanistan describes the types of missions that the Chinook fleet undertake “The Chinook fleet generally support various types of tasking including delivering personnel, stores and equipment to the Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) and Patrol Bases (PB’s) or participating in ‘deliberate operations’ that insert and extract coalition forces into the area of operations.

It’s most notable missions have been supporting the Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT).” He adds that the MERT missions are “immensely rewarding as the team of medics that extract the casualties are saving the lives of British and coalition personnel. We also extract Afghan security forces and local personnel providing life saving first aid or movement to hospital facilities.”

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