Monday, June 15, 2009
A highly specialised unit within the Joint Helicopter Command, the RAF Tactical Supply Wing, which has been refuelling battlefield helicopters in Iraq for the last six years, has now come home. Report by Neale Adams.
Battlefield helicopters will not fly unless the RAF Tactical Supply Wing (TSW) is on operations to make it happen.
The best mechanics and pilots can ensure an aircraft is airworthy or flown well, but without fuel the war bird stays on the ground.
Usually the first in and some of the last to leave operational areas, personnel from the TSW literally 'dig in' to establish and maintain a battlefield fuel capability to keep the helicopters in the air to move troops and equipment and, where necessary, extract casualties.
The fuel depots are a high-level target. In 2006 a major offensive by local insurgents against the Forward Operating Base at Al Amarah saw a direct mortar strike on a TSW rubber storage tank, resulting in the loss of 94,000 litres of aviation fuel.
Two days later, during a further bombardment, refuelling hoses were set on fire, but the swift action of the TSW detachment prevented a further loss of fuel and allowed helicopter operations to continue.
Moreover fuel and replacement equipment was rapidly redeployed from the main operating base in order to swiftly re-establish TSW's full operational capability.
In another incident a General Service Tanker containing 28,000 litres of fuel suffered a direct hit, resulting in the total loss of the vehicle.
During the same period TSW personnel continued to refuel aircraft while coming under fire, to ensure that the aircraft were able to take off and counter the threat.
In recognition of the dedication and bravery of the TSW personnel, two members were awarded the General Officer Commanding Commendation for their actions.
This article is taken from an edition of RAF News - Voice of The Royal Air Force.