The Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAuxAF) was set up to provide a primary reinforcement capability to compliment the full time personnel in the RAF.
The RAuxAF, or RAF Reserves, consist of volunteers who give up 27 days of their year to their squadron.
There are 20 active Squadrons in the UK with around 1300 personnel, covering the wide range of trades within the RAF:
|3 Squadron||Tactical Provost Wing||RAF Henlow|
|501 Squadron||Force Protection||RAF Brize Norton|
|504 Squadron||RAF Regiment||RAF Cottesmore|
|600 Squadron||Intelligence, Medical support||RAF Northolt|
|602 Squadron||Flight ops, Intelligence||Glasgow|
|603 Squadron||RAF Regiment||Edinburgh|
|606 Squadron||JHC Support/Flight ops||RAF Benson|
|609 Squadron||RAF Regiment||RAF Leeming|
|612 Squadron||Medical Support||RAF Leuchars|
|4624 Squadron||Movements||RAF Brize Norton|
|4626 Squadron||Aeromedical Evacuation||RAF Lyneham|
|7006 Squadron||Intelligence||RAF Waddington|
|7010 Squadron||Photographic Interpretation||RAF Waddington|
|7630 Squadron||Intelligence||RAF Waddington|
|7644 Squadron||Media Ops||RAF Halton|
|1359 Flight||Hercules Reservist Aircrew||RAF Lyneham|
|2503 Squadron||RAF Regiment||RAF Waddington|
|2620 Squadron||RAF Regiment||RAF Marham|
|2622 Squadron||RAF Regiment||RAF Lossiemouth|
|2623 Squadron||RAF Regiment||RAF Honington|
606 Squadron, based at RAF Benson was established in 1996 and is the only Royal Auxiliary Air Force unit within the Joint Helicopter Command. The 180 personnel of the squadron work in a wide range of areas from logistics to flight operations.
The squadron works closely with Benson's four helicopter squadrons; 33 and 230 Squadrons flying the Puma and 28 and 78 Squadrons flying the Merlin.
In 2008, Officer Commanding 606 Squadron, Squadron Leader Gary Lane came up with an idea of bringing together the diverse range of trades and squadrons into an exercise so that personnel could benefit from other people's experience and also create an atmosphere that would bring training to a higher and more realistic standard.
The result of this was Exercise Chiltern Kite which was first held in April 2008. Since then the annual exercise has blossomed into the latest 2012 exercise which was the largest RAuxAF exercise seen to date. Around 300 personnel deployed to Imber village, deep in Danger area 123 on Salisbury Plain from 12 units for a weekend of putting their training into action. Supporting them was a Puma from 230sqn and 2 Merlins from 78sqn, who were themselves supported by the Tactical Supply Wing (TSW) from Stafford.
The scenario for the 2012 Chiltern Kite was that a fictional country named Expendistan was continuing to make threatening moves towards the democratic and mineral-rich Khataria. The United Nations issued a mandate to the RAF Reserves, who then moved in to protect Khataria. Firstly 4 units of RAF Regiment Reservists combined as one and were inserted into the area to neutralise the area. Once the area was secure, a Forward Operating Base (FOB) was established (Imber Village) for the rest of the units to operate from. 4624 Squadron (Air Movements) from RAF Brize Norton organised and set-up a facility to extract embassy staff from Khataria if needed.
This scenario allowed multiple units to work together to produce an end result - for example the medical reservists responding to the RAF Regiment who were inserted by a Merlin Helicopter, that was refuelled by the TSW who were fed by the cooks, who's equipment was run by a generator from logistics.
It's this unique collective training that Chiltern Kite provides that prepares the reservists for possible deployment to Afghanistan.
Chiltern Kite also provides valuable training for the 'regular' RAF personnel such as the helicopter crews. With budgets tight, and flying hours at the lowest, the exercise is a superb opportunity to spend a couple of days flying real troops, flying tactically and operating with underslung loads at make-shift Helicopter Landing Sites (HLS).
RAF Lyneham's 4626 Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron provided the medical element of Chiltern Kite with a 50 strong group consisting of a Doctor, a physiotherapist, Nurses and paramedics who do their reservist job full time in the civilian world. This provides the RAF with the best medical response possible whilst keeping costs to a minimum.