On Wednesday 14 September a very special formation left RAF Odiham bound for the south coast of England but tactical camouflage was not on the agenda! In the past 18 months three Chinook aircraft have been painted to celebrate the 100th anniversaries of 18(B) and 27 Squadron from RAF Odiham and 28 Squadron from RAF Benson.
With the first of the helicopters expected to be returned to standard operational markings in the near future this opportunity was integrated in to a formation training sortie which tested the crews' ability to plan and execute some very unique tasks. With it being so complex the mission was, unusually, briefed the day prior to launch and each crew walked through the various maneouvres in the hangar, in what is colloquially known as a 'rock drill.' At the hour they walked for their aircraft each member had a firm grasp of the planned movements which enabled them to focus on maintaining strict safety margins.
The day itself was only the end of a long road though, with preparation having begun over 6 months ago. Operational restraints cancelled the first planned date in June and the only other window where all three aircraft were available concurrently was identified as being this week.
RAF Odiham's dedicated and professional engineering teams were therefore faced with generating three very specific airframes to complete this sortie whilst concurrently deploying multiple others to support exercises in Sweden and onboard HMS Ocean and providing manpower to flying detachments in the United States and elsewhere. They succeeded and the results of their efforts are clearly seen.The Serco team who painted the Chinooks at Odiham, each in the space of two intense weeks, were invited to see the three lined up on the dispersal together for what may be the first and only time - a moment they had waited a long time to see.
As for the stunning imagery seen here, that could certainly not have been captured without the generous contribution of 657 Sqn Army Air Corps, also based at RAF Odiham, who integrated a Lynx aircraft with the formation to act as a camera platform. This again provided a valuable training opportunity for dissimilar types to operate together, all the while having to maintain awareness of the other's capabilities and limitations. (Text Courtesy of the MOD under the following Licence:OGL Crown Copyright 2016)