A Royal Air Force squadron with a long and proud history has re-formed at RAF Benson as the Operational Evaluation Unit for the Joint Helicopter Command.
Synonymous with search and rescue, 22 Squadron will provide operational testing and evaluation for all the Joint Helicopter Command helicopter types, including Chinook, Puma, Apache and Wildcat. Formerly the Rotary Wing Operational Evaluation and Training Unit, the highly experienced helicopter aircrew will also ensure frontline crews have Qualified Warfare Instructors to support them on operations worldwide.
Wing Commander Dave Flynn, the new Commanding Officer of 22 Squadron, said:
“No. 22 Squadron has a rich history spanning 105 years and it is an honour to command the squadron as it reforms. With a strong record in test and evaluation and rotary wing operations, it is fitting that the squadron now reforms as the Joint Helicopter Command Operational Evaluation Unit as part of the Aviation Warfare Branch. We collectively look forward to continuing the squadron’s output in a manner fitting to its distinguished history.”
Group Captain Pete Warmerdam, the Assistant Head of Safety and Assurance at the Joint Helicopter Command, said:
“It is fantastic to see the reformation of 22 Squadron within the Joint Helicopter Command. Possessing a fine operational history, 22 Squadron will ensure that we continue to conduct world-leading trials and tactics development for our rotary platforms.”
The Squadron motto Preux et Audicieux translates as “Valiant and Brave” and epitomises the Squadron’s history and its future. Formed in 1915, 22 Squadron initially conducted general purpose reconnaissance bombing and photographic work before being re-equipped as a fighter squadron for the remainder of WWI.
In the inter-war period 22 Squadron tested every new aircraft, civilian and military, produced by the British aviation industry and as well as every foreign design to be used by the RAF. This crucial behind-the-scenes role echoes the new role the squadron will perform, helping to ensure the safety of helicopter crews across the Armed Forces by supporting the testing of equipment and processes.
Throughout WWII, the Squadron conducted mine-laying sorties and torpedo operations, where numerous individuals were commended for their brave actions, some posthumously. The Squadron continues the finest tradition of honour and bravery today with personnel chosen to work on the Operational Evaluation Unit being amongst the most experienced helicopter operators in the Armed Forces.
22 Squadron began its association with helicopters in 1955 when it was established as a Search and Rescue unit. Flying the Sycamore, Whirlwind, Wessex and Sea King, the Squadron served with distinction for 60 years in the SAR role.
While the standing up of a Squadron is usually accompanied by a formal parade, social distancing measures currently preclude this. However, the Squadron are operational while following all government guidance. They will celebrate their reformation at a later date when it is safe to do so.
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