Royal Navy shapeshifters

With new aircraft and new missions, there are some exciting times ahead for the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm’s Commando Helicopter Force, as Ian Harding recently found out

Unique formation of five 845 NAS Commando Merlin HC4 and three 847 NAS Wildcat BRH, pictured during a recent exercise 
Images by Ian Harding unless stated

Commando Helicopter Force (CHF) was formed two years before Joint Helicopter Command in 1997 to bring the helicopter units that supported 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines under a single command. While its primary role is to provide rotary-wing support to the brigade and other UK force elements in the amphibious environment, its aviation component tells only half the story. In truth, it is a unique force comprising many other elements that enable it to operate as a self-contained, highly specialised force, able to tailor its capability to meet the specific requirements made of it by the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD).

In this sense, they do not embark as an aviation detachment, but as a ‘unit of action’, which currently contains Royal Marines and other navy specialists. Like a chameleon that changes colour during defence or attack depending on its circumstances, CHF can change its shape depending on its needs and the specific support required.

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