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Wattisham Today - Wattisham Station Heritage Airfield Museum

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Wattisham Today

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Flying at Wattisham looks likely to carry on for the foreseeable future.   Wattisham is now home to all Apache AH1 helicopters in the British Army and is directly under Joint Helicopter Command.

The Army

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.

The Apache

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 RAFChinook helicopters can air-lift injured British and Allied soldiers from the battle field.

Air Sea Rescue

The 14th August 2015 marked the end of an era for the RAF Search and Rescue operations at Wattisham Flying Station, when the RAF handed over responsibility from 22 Squadron B Flight to the private company Bristow who will carry out search and rescue operations from their base at London Ashford Airport near Dungeness Airport in Kent.

The RAF used to maintain a presence at Wattisham with B Flight, 22 Squadron who moved to Wattisham in June 1994 from RAF Manston The Squadron was equipped with 2 Sea King Mk 111 helicopters in the Search & Rescue role.
The Sea King has been at Wattisham since 1994 and B Flight have flown over 3000 life saving missions.
There are also RAF Survival Equipment Fitters that are attached to the Army Air Corps. 


The Sea Kings flew out of Wattisham for the very last time on the 18th August 2015.

The Police

On the 2nd October 2000 the EC135 Advanced

 Police Helicopter flew into Wattisham Airfield. Packed with Hi-Tech equipment, including a high powered video camera,  imaging systems and powerful search lights.

The helicopter is able to track fleeing criminals and stolen vehicles without engaging the public. The helicopter is crewed by a pilot and two observers but is capable of carrying up to seven people.

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