653 Squadron - AAC

Unit history

AAC Anecdotes    Radfan buildup

During the 1950s and 1960s, the Army Air Corps became involved in a series of brush fire operations as Britain relinquished control of her Empire and Colonies. In 1961, British forces in the Aden Protectorate were reinforced after an increase in anti-government insurgence. 653 Squadron AAC provided aviation support for these reinforcements. The Squadron was also called upon to provide assistance to the Kuwaiti government. In 1963, dissident tribesmen in the Radfan, a mountainous region 35 miles north of Aden, rebelled against the Federal Government and 24 Brigade Group was sent into the region with 653 Squadron AAC in support. The Squadron was initially equipped with nine fixed-wing (Auster and Beaver) aircraft and two Scout helicopters and provided air reconnaissance, re-supply, liaison and artillery fire direction. Many important lessons were learnt during this campaign including how to land and take off in areas of enemy activity, the vulnerability of helicopters to small arms fire and the morale boosting effect of using helicopters to evacuate casualties from locations which would be inaccessible by any other means.

By 1966, to reflect the growing number of AAC aircraft in theatre, 653 Squadron was re-titled No.3 Wing AAC, but still used the official crest of 653 Squadron. It comprised of No. 15 Flight AAC with seven DH-C 2 Beavers, No. 8 Flight AAC and No. 13 Flight AAC, each with six Westland Scout Helicopters and  some 4 or 5 ‘Air Troops’ or ‘Air Platoons’. Each of these comprised of three Augusta/Westland Sioux-Bell 47G helicopters. Whilst these came under command of 3 Wing AAC for all servicing and technical standards, they were actually under the command of  individual Army fighting units, such as the Royal Artillery, Infantry and Cavalry. In effect they gave their unit three flying Landrovers/scouting vehicles! Sounds complicated, but it gave great flexibility to the fighting arms of the Army. The official base of 3 Wing AAC was at Falaise Camp/airfield, near little Aden, until the last six months of 1967, when the whole of the Little Aden complex was vacated and the units moved to Khormaksar until the final withdrawal.