In March 1993, The British Army officially took over Wattisham Airfield. With its HQ in Colchester Garrison, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps arrived in the Summer of 1993. The Regiment was made up of 3 Squadrons, 653, 662 and 663 flying the Westland Lynx AH7, AH9 and the Gazelle AH1’s helicopters. In early 1995, 4 Regiment Army Air Corps, with Squadrons 659, 669 and 654 flying the same Lynx and Gazelle helicopters joined 3 Regiment. January 1995 also saw the arrival of 7 Battalion REME, the army’s second line helicopter repair unit. During the next few years the Army units based at Wattisham Airfield supported military operations worldwide. Detachments and crews from Wattisham worked in such places as Bosnia, Croatia and Northern Ireland.
On 3rd September 1999, 16 Air Assault Brigade formed at Wattisham. With the Iraq war, 3 Regiment supplied the necessary helicopters for 7 & 16 Air Assault Brigades in March 2003. Tasked with reconnaissance, tank busting, forward air controlling & troop movement.
By the July of the same year 4 Regiment took over from 3 Regiment with the emphasismore towards humanitarian effort and rebuilding the country.
In January 2005 two Apache AH1 Attack Helicopters were delivered to Wattisham. The Apache is an helicopter capable of carrying an awesome weapons payload, along with the Longbow radar targeting system. This system is able to detect, classify and prioritise targets. The Apache is powered by two Rolls Royce RTM322 engines. A new service centre was opened at Wattisham in November 2006 to maintain and service all UK Apache AH1 helicopters. In August 2007 664 Sqn. transferred from 9 Reg. Army Air Corps to Wattisham 4 Reg.
Wattisham is now home to all Apache AH1 helicopters in the British Army. The Lynx helicopter Squadrons either converted to the Apache or moved from Wattisham.All 3 Squadrons in 3 Reg 653 Sqn. 662 Sqn & 663 Sqn. converted. In 4 Reg only 654 Sqn. converted 656 Sqn & 664 Sqn. replaced 659 Sqn. & 669 Sqn.
With the ongoing commitment in Afghanistan the Apache has proved it’s worth. Their main roll in Afghanistan is to fly missions in support of British ground troops, giving them valuable air cover and to go in first to secure the airspace and ground so the RAF Chinook helicopters can air-lift injured British and Allied soldiers from the battle field.