Supply Wing's (TSW) motto is "Support to Strike" - a very apt
form of wording as, until 1st October 1999, the Wing's role was to
provide support to Strike Command. This short history will trace the
history of TSW from its formation through development and participation
in operations that it has supported to the present day and the recent
transfer of ownership to the new Joint Helicopter Command.
decision in the late 1960's to abandon its 'tripwire' strategy
in favour of one of 'flexible response' identified the need
for a discrete tactical supply unit consequently "The Tactical
Supply Wing" formed at RAF Stafford in late 1970 and supported a
number of exercises, before being declared operational on 1
January 1971. The
potential for enhanced flexibility and mobility afforded by TSW
being quickly seized upon, thus over the years, TSW has been
involved in a great many operations, peacekeeping deployments and
humanitarian relief activities.
primary role involves supporting deployed helicopter operations: it
provides and stores aviation fuel on the battlefield and specialises in
providing rotors-turning refuelling to NATO helicopters.
Operations In this
short history, attention will be focused on the major operations
that TSW has
supported over the years:
after its formation, TSW very quickly embarked on its first operational
deployment and was sent to Northern Ireland in 1971. These duties have been
maintained, without a break, through to the present day. There are currently 22
TSW personnel deployed at 5 security force operating bases throughout Northern
Ireland operating 24 hours a day 365 Days a year
1973, TSW supported Operation Khana Cascade - famine relief in Nepal. With
elements of the Wing deploying to provide supply support to the Hercules
aircraft flying in Nepal.
TSW deployed to British Honduras (Belize). This deployment was to become, like
Northern Ireland, another long commitment. TSW provided aviation fuel to RAF
Harriers and Support Helicopters in Belize until 1979.
War (Operation Corporate)
April 1982, elements of the Wing deployed with Task Force 317 to the South
Atlantic.TSW's task was
two-fold.First, it had to
co-ordinate the supply support at Ascension Island and provide aviation fuel to
the aircraft based on the island, including the famous Vulcan 'Black Buck' raid
and the massive air-to-air refuelling operation.Secondly, following the successful invasion of the Falklands,
TSW personnel were tasked to provide support to aircraft based on the Islands. This task suffered a severe blow when the 'Atlantic Conveyor' carrying much of TSW's equipment was attacked and lost despite this setback TSW were able to establish a Forward Arming and Refuelling Point (FARP) at Port San Carlos supporting both aircraft and ground forces attacking Port Stanley.
operations in Northern Ireland continued, it was to be nearly a decade before
TSW were involved in a major conflict again, however, this was to be in another
climatic extreme - the desert.On 2
August 1990 Saddam Hussein's forces invaded Kuwait and Operation 'GRANBY',
better known as DESERT STORM was launched.By 11 August 1990, the first detachments of TSW personnel had deployed to
Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and Thumrait in Oman.This pattern was repeated at other bases throughout the Arabian Peninsula
as the deployment gathered momentum.As
preparations continued, TSW found itself moving further into the desert and
concentrating on its core task, that of helicopter refuelling.TSW personnel refuelled not only the largest helicopter force assembled
by the UK, but also on an ad-hoc basis, the helicopters of coalition partners.
Working closely with 1st Armoured Division, TSW followed the British
tanks, as they breached the Iraqi defences on 25 Feb 91, with convoys of fuel
for the Support Helicopters -Within 4 days, elements of TSW were in Northern
Kuwait and were one of the first British units to enter Kuwait City. Following
departure from the Gulf in May 1991, TSW was tasked to support the Royal Marines
engaged on Op HAVEN - the protection of the Kurds who had fled from Saddam
in the Balkans has been the unit's principal focus since 1993. TSW's primary
role has been to provide the UN and NATO helicopter forces with aviation fuel in
locations as diverse as Split in Croatia through to the most northerly parts of
Bosnia.Today TSW have 2 helicopter
refuelling sites in Croatia and Bosnia and remain one of the longest serving
Units in that theatre.
spring of 1999, TSW personnel deployed to Macedonia to support British forces
engaged in operations against Serbian forces in Kosovo.A team of 11 TSW personnel deployed to Macedonia with the Support
Helicopter Force in April. On arrival in Macedonia, personnel were tactically
deployed and lived around their vehicles, supporting RAF Chinooks and Pumas.Having established a Main Refuelling Area in Macedonia, personnel supported 5 Airborne Brigade's entry into Kosovo and established Forward Refuelling Points.These subsequently played an important role in supporting RAF, NATO and Non-Governmental helicopters operating in Kosovo.
BARWOOD was a short notice humanitarian aid operation initiated in February 2000
in response to severe flooding in Mozambique.The Limpopo Valley tasking areas were approximately 80 miles from the
Main Operating Base at Maputo, established by the South African Defence Force
they were left were unmanned and aircraft had to close down to refuel, resulting
in delays to tasking.After only 48
hours in theatre, the TSW team had transformed the sites into efficient
refuelling points were all nations took on hot refuels making the operation more
efficient and thus more aid was delivered.
May 2000, TSW deployed to Lungi International Airport in Sierre Leone as part of
Operation PALLISER.Tasked with the
rotors turning refuelling of Chinook, Sea King Mk4 and Lynx aircraft, TSW
support enabled the aircraft to undertake high readiness sorties in support of
Special Forces and 1 Parachute Regiment Battle Group.
In November 2001, TSW deployed to Oman as part of Op ORACLE, tasked with the
rotors turning refuelling of multi national aircraft involved with the planned
conflict in Afghanistan in the fight against international terrorism and to
remove the Taliban region from power. TSW then deployed to Bagram airfield in
Afghanistan, setting up an aviation fuel site to support US and UK battlefield
helicopters as part of Op JACANA. TSW personnel remained in theatre until they
finally pulled out in October 2002.
Conflict (Gulf 2)
2003 approx 122 personnel from TSW were deployed to the Gulf region on Op TELIC
to support coalition forces in their dispute with the Iraqi regime. Two task
forces of 29 were deployed to the western region of the Gulf in support of
Special Forces and the remaining 93 personnel were deployed to Kuwait, Ali Al
Salem, to provide aviation fuel support for US and UK Helicopters involved in
the planned conflict. In early March, 14 TSW personnel were detached from Ali Al
Salem to 3 Commando Bde in support of Commando Helicopter operations involved in
the Al Fawr peninsular task to secure the southern oilfields. Finally, from
their holding area at Abdally Farms (10kms south of Iraqi border) the main TSW
contingent deployed across the border on the 22 March as one of the first RAF
elements to go into Iraq, tasked with setting up a Main Refuelling Area with
350m3 of fuel at Safwan, a disused airfield approx 5kms from the village.
Supporting Pumas, Chinooks and Lynx ac from the UK JHC and Cobras and Sea
Knights from the US Marine Corps the Safwan Task Force remained until it
deployed north to Basra Int Airport at the end of April, where, at the time of
writing they still remain with a team of 19 personnel.
Joint Helicopter Command
the Strategic Defence Review recommendations supporting a more joint approach to
operations, was the formation of a new Joint Helicopter Command.The Joint Helicopter Command formed at Wilton on 1 October 1999 and
consists, in peacetime, of all Battlefield Helicopters (BH) of the three
Services: The RN Commando Helicopter Force; all operational Army Air Corps
aircraft; the RAF Support Helicopter Force.The Commander Joint Helicopter Command will also exercise operational
command of 16 Air Assault Brigade.This
powerful assault force includes the Parachute Regiments and the new Apache
TSW's role in supporting battlefield helicopters from the 3 Services, TSW is
an important logistic asset and provides the Joint Helicopter Command with its
own dedicated tactical fuels organisation.
2001, TSW were tasked to support the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(MAFF) in their fight against a serious outbreak of Food and Mouth disease
around the country. Personnel from TSW were deployed on Op PENINSULAR to North
Yorkshire to assist local authorities with the quarantine and final disposal of
animals affected by the disease. A task that showed the flexibility and
professionalism of TSW JNCOs and airmen in such diverse taskings such as this.
2002, TSW were also tasked to assist HMG with providing emergency fire cover to
local authorities due to the national Firefighters Strike. On what was tasked Op
FRESCO, approx 20 personnel were deployed to Wales as drivers, emergency
firefighters and tradesmen to provide limited but vital fire cover to the