Armed Forces - a7a1 - Army Air Corps - Summary





In 2007, the AAC aircraft fleet comprises four types: Apache AH Mk1, Lynx AH7/9, and Gazelle helicopters, and the fixed-wing BN-2 Islander/Defender aircraft. Contractor-owned Bell 212s are also used by the Army flight in Brunei as a utility and transport helicopter.

Over the next ten years, the MoD plans to invest some £3bn in helicopter platforms to replace and enhance the existing capability. In light of the improved security situation in Northern Ireland, the MoD plans to make some reductions in overall helicopter numbers.


Battlefield helicopters have played a major role in UK military operations since the 1960s. The AAC battlefield helicopter fleet has accumulated a vast amount of operational experience in recent years, and is arguably a more capable force than that possessed by any other European nation.

The flexibility of battlefield helicopters was demonstrated in 2003 during Operation TELIC in Iraq. Here 3 Regiment, Army Air Corps, with two Pumas from the Support Helicopter Force attached, was deployed forward as a combined-arms battlegroup, initially within 16 Air Assault Brigade and later in conjunction with 7 Armoured Brigade. The battlegroup had responsibility for an area that extended over 6,000 square kilometres, and provided a versatile combat arm during the warfighting phase. In the immediate aftermath of hostilities, helicopters proved to be the most efficient means of covering the vast operational area allocated to British forces, and also in distributing humanitarian aid to isolated villages.


The Army obtains its aviation support from Army Air Corps (AAC), which is an organisation with eight separate regiments and a number of independent squadrons and flights.

AAC manpower is believed to number some 2,034 (early 2009) personnel of all ranks, including about 500 officers. Unlike the all-officer Navy and Air Force helicopter pilot establishments, almost two-thirds of AAC aircrew are non-commissioned officers. The AAC is supported by REME and RLC personnel numbering some 2,600 all ranks. Total AAC-related manpower is believed to be some 4,600 personnel of all ranks.

With certain exceptions, during peace, all battlefield helicopters come under the authority of the Joint Helicopter Command (JHC).

The introduction into AAC service of the WAH-64D Apache Longbow attack helicopter has transformed AAC doctrine, organisation, and order of battle. The British Army designation of the type is Apache AH Mk1. As of early 2009, the AAC continues a process of organisational transformation with the UK Army having taken the decision to concentrate the Apache AH Mk 1 into three Attack Regiments.

The AAC is equipping these three Aviation Attack Regiments with a total of 48 x Apache AH Mk 1 attack helicopters, supporting operations in Afghanistan. The three Attack Regiments are 9 Regt at Dishforth in Yorkshire, and 3 and 4 Regts at Wattisham in Suffolk – with a full operating capability reached in early 2008.

Each attack regiment will have 2 x Attack Squadrons equipped with 8 x Apache AH Mk1 attack helicopters and 1 x Support squadron equipped with 8 x Lynx. The Gazelle Helicopter has already started to be phased out by several units following the introduction of the Apache AH Mk 1. The capability gap left will be filled by introducing the Battlefield Light Utility Helicopter (BLUH) in this capacity. Several Gazelle Helicopters will, however, continue to be retained for specialist tasks as required. The Lynx Helicopter will also be phased out as the Apache AH Mk 1 will replace it in its attack helicopter role. Ultimately, however, the Lynx will be replaced by the new Battlefield Reconnaissance Helicopter (Future Lynx).

The current (2009) AAC Regimental and Squadron locations are shown below

Regiment Squadron Location Helicopter Fleet
1 Regiment 652, 661 Germany Lynx 16
2 (Trg) Regiment 668, 670, 671, 673, 676, Middle Wallop Apache, Lynx, Gazelle 36 (variable)
3 Attack Regiment 653, 662, 663 Wattisham Apache, Lynx 24
4 Attack Regiment 654, 659, 669 Wattisham Apache, Lynx 24
5 Regiment 665 Aldergrove Gazelle 8
6 Regiment (V) 667 Bury St Edmunds Support (1 more Sqn forming) n/a
7 Regiment (V) 658, 666 Netheravon Gazelle 12
9 Attack Regiment 656, 664, 672 Dishforth Apache, Lynx 24
Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing 657 Odiham Lynx 12
Development & Trials 667 Middle Wallop All types Variable
Initial Training 660 Shawbury Squirrel HT1 12

Flights include 3 (TA) Flight (Leuchars), 6 (TA) Flight (Shawbury), 7 Flight (Brunei), 8 Flight (Hereford, 12 Flight (Germany), 25 Flight (Belize), 29 BATUS Flight – Canada

The AAC Centre at Middle Wallop in Hampshire acts as a focal point for all Army Aviation, and it is here that the majority of corps training is carried out. Although the AAC operates some fixed-wing aircraft for training and liaison flying, the main effort goes into providing helicopter support for the land forces. About 200 AAC helicopters are believed to be in operational service in early 2009.


Following significant development during World War Two, Army Aviation formally joined the Army order of battle in the early 1950s. Since then its place on the battlefield has developed rapidly as an integral element of the Army’s manoeuvre forces.

The introduction of attack helicopters clearly identifies the shift of emphasis from combat support towards the combat role, particularly within air manoeuvre operations. However, despite this changing emphasis, the Army also has a continuing essential requirement for army aviation to provide both combat support and combat service support roles.

Army Aviation doctrine

Army aviation operations rely for their effect on integration into combined arms groupings (e.g. brigades and battle groups) of which army aviation forms an element, the most pivotal of which is its place within air manoeuvre forces.

In the context of Land Operations, Air Manoeuvre seeks decisive advantage through the exploitation of the third dimension by combined-arms forces centred on rotary-wing aircraft, but within an overall joint operations framework.

Until 2004, the Army Lynx was the main AAC battlefield helicopter, and the only one with a combat role. Consequently, the AAC has had no previous experience of what some might describe as true Attack Helicopter operations. With the introduction of the Apache AH Mk 1 into service, doctrine has evolved to accommodate this new capability. The experience of other Apache operators (particularly the US Army) has proved to be invaluable.


Combat Aviation: To find, fix and strike, either independently, or as the lead element, or as a constituent of combined arms groupings, throughout the depth of the battlefield and the 24-hour battle, and throughout the full spectrum of operations.

Combat Support Aviation: To provide enabling capabilities for combined arms operations, throughout the depth of the battlefield and the 24-hour battle, and throughout the full spectrum of operations.


In a Combat Role: To conduct air manoeuvre using direct fire and manoeuvre, as part of the land battle component.

In a Combat Support Role: To provide ISTAR (Integrated, Surveillance, Target Acquisition Radar) as a collection asset in its own right or potentially as a platform for other sensors, including ECM (Electronic Countermeasures); NBC (Nuclear, Chemical and Biological) reconnaissance; ESM (Electronic Support Measures); radar and other electronic systems.

Other tasks may include:

To provide direction of fire support (ground/air/maritime/special forces).
To provide mobility for combat forces.
To assist in command and control, including acting as airborne command posts.
To provide a limited extraction capability.

In a Combat Service Support Role: To provide movement for personnel and materiel including casualty evacuation (CASEVAC).


1st Regiment Army Air Corps


3rd Regiment Army Air Corps


4th Regiment Army Air Corps


5th Regiment Army Air Corps 5 REGT AAC

7th Regiment Army Air Corps


9th Regiment Army Air Corps