After standing down as a Search and Rescue squadron in 2015, 22 Squadron has re-formed at RAF Benson as the Operational Evaluation Unit for the Joint Helicopter Command.
Formerly the Rotary Wing Operational Evaluation and Training Unit, the highly experienced helicopter aircrew will now transfer to 22 Squadron. They will provide operational testing and evaluation for all the Joint Helicopter Command helicopter types, which includes Puma, Chinook, Merlin, Apache, Wildcat, Bell 212, Dauphin N3 and Gazelle. They will also be ensuring that frontline crews have Qualified Warfare Instructors to support them on operations worldwide.
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.
Disbanding at the end of WWI, they re-formed in 1923 to test 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 that the squadron will perform as the Operational Evaluation Unit, 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. They use their vast operational knowledge to train front-line crews and ensure each helicopter has equipment that is trialled and tested before operational use.
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. Coincidentally, the Rotary Wing Operational Evaluation and Training Unit provided significant support to the Search and Rescue crews across the UK with operationally experienced SAR crews as part of the team before the role was civilianised in 2015.
Wing Commander David Flynn, the new Officer Commanding 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.”