London—The United Kingdom Special Forces (UKSF) is set to lose some of its organic aviation capability.
The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced that the 657 Squadron of the Army Air Corps (AAC) will be disbanded in 2018. Under this development, the SAS, SBS, and their support elements will be down a flight of 12 Lynx Mk9A helicopters.
The Squadron was scheduled to replace the ageing Lynxes with the SOF variant of the Wildcat AH.1, but a shortage of funds caused a change of plans.
Based in Oldham, 657 Sq., belongs to the Joint Special Forces Aviation Wing (JSFAW), an equivalent of the U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command (USASOAC). The unit traces its history back to the Second World War (it flew airplanes, then). In 2000, two helicopters from the Squadron participated in Operation Barras, a successful SAS hostage rescue in Sierra Leone.
A detachment of Puma HC2 helicopters from the Royal Air Force (RAF) is destined to fill up the gap in the long run. But the UKSF will still be losing because it would take some time and a lot of training hours for the RAF crews to achieve the SOF expertise of their predecessors.
Meanwhile, a small number of SOF-capable Wildcats will be ready in case of emergencies. This high-readiness detachment has between two and four choppers and can operate from remote bases and with minimal warning.
The UKSF will be losing a vital capability in the wake of numerous terrorist attacks, most notably in Manchester and London. British security services believe that more than 3000 jihadists are in the country.
Only time will tell if the British government is going to regret its decision.
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