On the 3rd June 2011 the WAH-64D Apache attack helicopters of the British Army Air Corps made their first sortie over Libya. The Apaches flew from HMS Ocean making this the first operational sortie conducted from sea and the second theatre the Apaches are currently deployed to.
HMS Ocean is part of the Responsive Force Task Group (RFTG) made up of five Royal Navy ships originally deployed on Exercise Cougar 11 to the Mediterranean but have been re-tasked in support of Operation Unified Protector.
The Apache is being flown by crews from 656 Squadron, Army Air Corp, and took part in a coordinated mission that also included RAF Tornados and Typhoons. They were tasked with carrying out strikes with both the 30mm cannon and Hellfire missile in the Brega area of Libya and targeted a radar installation and a military checkpoint before returning safely to HMS Ocean.
This story is being reported on all the major news channels, websites and newspapers but it seems the mainstream press still hasn’t grasped who operates the Apache. I find this especially surprising considering how long the Army Air Corp has been involved in Afghanistan and how widely the press reports on them there.
The MoD spelt out in the Notes to Editors section of their press release that the Apache is operated by the Army Air Corp but when I look around today I see only the Independent came close with having British Army describing a photo, the rest of the article just referred to ‘British Apaches’. The BBC News, The Guardian and Sky News all decided to use ‘British Apache’ as well, although Sky News did put “Apache Attack Helicopters are operated by Royal Navy crews” under one of the photos! The Daily Telegraph went with ‘UK Apache’.
Whilst using ‘British Apache’ or ‘UK Apache’ isn’t incorrect it isn’t giving credit where credits due either but it isn’t as bad as The Sun, Daily Mail and Channel 4 News who said the Apache was operated by the RAF. Sadly not an uncommon thing to do and one that doesn’t go down well with the people who fly the Apache.
So, one final time. The British Apache is operated by the ARMY AIR CORPS. They are part of the British Army. The particular crews on HMS Ocean at the moment are from 656 Squadron. They are based at Wattisham Airfield (this NOT RAF Wattisham).