AFTER COMPLETING a six-month tour of duty supporting Operation Resolute, the British contribution to NATO’s Implementation Force (IFOR)/Operation Joint Endeavour in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 9 Regiment Army Air Corps (AAC) handed over to 1 Regt AAC from Gutersloh during June. About 36 crews and 180 other personnel of the Regiment will continue to support the British, Canadian, Czech, Dutch and Malaysian mission throughout British-led Multi-National Division South-West (MND[SW]) and elsewhere in Bosnia if required by IFOR.
1 Regt aircrew will also continue to fly about 40 hours per month in the 14 Lynx AH.7s and four Gazelle AH.Is which were used by and belong to 9 Regt. Seven of the Lynx AH.7s and two Gazelle AH.Is are based alongside the six Royal Air Force Chinook HC.2s of 1310 Flight and four Fleet Air Arm Sea King HC.4s of 845 Naval Air Squadron (NAS) at the main base of the Joint Support Helicopter Force (JSHF), Divulje Barracks 12 miles (19km) west of Split in Croatia. Within MND(SW), 1 Regt operate three Lynxes and one Gazelle at the Forward Operating Base (FOB) of Gornji Vakuf in central Bosnia and two Lynxes at Sarajevo Airport for the Headquarters Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (HQ ARRC); and two Lynxes and one Gazelle at HQ MND(SW) at Banja Luka.
Helicopter tasking for the Divisional HQ has particularly been helped by the recent reopening of a Bosnian Serb airfield nearby.
Back in January when 9 Regt deployed to the theatre, the Lynxes were armed with TOW and a 7.62 mm GPMG and the Gazelles with a laser targeting designator for the possibility of peace enforcement, whether that was reconnaissance, anti-tank or forward air control (FAC).
Apart from a few incidents during the first few months of Resolute when TOW-armed Lynx were sent as a show of IFOR’s strength, all of the tasks allocated to British Forces (BRITFOR) have been undertaken successfully — as has the whole IFOR mission.
This has reflected in the AAC now being mostly tasked to transport personnel around the theatre — an invaluable task given the terrain of the region, and to conduct aerial surveys of the 109 cantonment sites (which were established in April to store heavy weapons surrendered under Dayton to reduce the fighting strengths of regular forces and to disarm the irregular forces) and barracks of the Bosniac-Croat Federation and Bosnian Serb armies within MND(SW). However, the Lynxes continue to fly around the theatre equipped with the 7.62 mm GPMG, Sky Guardian 2000 Radar Warning Receivers (RWR) and IR jammers for selfprotection, while the Gazelles are fitted with the Rewarder RWR.
Given the nature of tasking for helicopters in the theatre now, the AAC decided several months ago to also deploy a single Islander together with seven members of 1 Flight, 5 Regt AAC at Sarajevo Airport. The deployment began on May 31 and it is expected that the Islander crews will get about 50 flying hours per month.
At the end of December, following the Bosnian elections which are due to take place on September 14, the AAC and the rest of IFOR are due to pull out of the region. However, those actually contributing to IFOR believe that such a withdrawal could still result in the resumption of hostilities. Therefore, it would be wise to maintain a similar force in the region for at least a few more years, to which, no doubt, the AAC and other helicopter units will continue to make an important contribution.