Joint Helicopter Command Flying Station Aldergrove

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JHC FS Aldergrove
Near Aldergrove, County Antrim in Northern Ireland
Westland Gazelle AH1 of the type based at Aldergrove.
Westland Gazelle AH1 of the type based at Aldergrove.
JHC FS Aldergrove is located in Northern Ireland
JHC FS Aldergrove
JHC FS Aldergrove
Location within Northern Ireland
Coordinates54°38′58″N 006°13′31″W / 54.64944°N 6.22528°W / 54.64944; -6.22528Coordinates: 54°38′58″N 006°13′31″W / 54.64944°N 6.22528°W / 54.64944; -6.22528
TypeJoint flying station
Site information
OwnerMinistry of Defence
OperatorRoyal Air Force (1918–2009)
Joint Helicopter Command (2009–2013)
38 (Irish) Brigade & Northern Ireland Garrison (2013–present)
Site history
Built1918 (1918)
In use1918–present
Airfield information
IdentifiersICAO: EGAA, WMO: 03917
Elevation69 metres (226 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
07/25 2,780 metres (9,121 ft) asphalt
17/35 1,891 metres (6,204 ft) asphalt
Airfield shared with Belfast International Airport

Joint Helicopter Command Flying Station Aldergrove or more simply JHC FS Aldergrove is located 4.4 miles (7.1 km) south of Antrim, Northern Ireland and 18 miles (29 km) northwest of Belfast and adjoins Belfast International Airport. It is sometimes referred to simply as Aldergrove which is the name of a nearby hamlet. The military flying units share the Aldergrove runways but have their own separate facilities and helipad.

The site was formerly RAF Aldergrove, a Royal Air Force station which was in operation between 1918 and 2009.


Inter-war years[edit]

RAF Aldergrove first opened in 1918 but was not designated as an operational RAF station until 1925.

Various squadrons were posted here during this time:

Second World War[edit]

Aldergrove's location made it an important station of RAF Coastal Command in the Battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War. From the base, long-range reconnaissance aircraft were able to patrol the Eastern Atlantic for U-boats. Some of these patrols ranged as far out as the distant islet of Rockall.

A picture taken of Rockall by an RAF crew based at Aldergrove on 11 March 1943

Various squadrons were posted here during this time:

Post war[edit]

Aldergrove was designated as a dispersal airfield for the RAF's V bomber force in the 1950s and was included in a reduced list of 26 airfields in 1962. In 1968 No. 23 Maintenance Unit RAF was responsible for the maintenance of McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs in RAF service, with 116 aircraft passing through on their way to front-line service. Aldergrove was also the main servicing and reconditioning station for the English Electric Canberra from their introduction in 1951. In 1976, the station had a staff of 2,500 RAF personnel and 1,500 civilians.[23]

Various squadrons were posted here between 1945 and 1985:

Royal Air Force operations[edit]

No. 72 Squadron operated Westland Wessex HC.2 helicopters from Aldergrove from 12 November 1981[30] until its disbandment in 2002.[31]

No. 230 Squadron RAF was re-deployed from Germany to RAF Aldergrove in 1992, where it operated Westland Puma HC.1 helicopters until its relocation to RAF Benson in November 2009.[32]

No. 18 Squadron RAF also operated detachments of Boeing Chinook during the late 80s in support of the British Army in Northern Ireland.

United States Air Force (USAF) Boeing C-17 Globemaster III operating from Aldergrove in support of U.S. presidential visit, 2003.
Army Air Squadron Operations

The 17/21st Lancers Air Squadron based at RAF Aldergrove from 1969 to 1971 operating with Sioux Helicopters and a Fixed Wing Beaver aircraft.

The following units were here at some point:[33]

Army Air Corps operations[edit]

The Army Air Corps also operated Westland Lynx and Westland Gazelle helicopters as well as de Havilland Canada DHC-2 Beaver aircraft in its joint operations with the RAF's Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre (Northern Ireland); the Beaver was replaced by the Britten-Norman Islander late in 1988.

During 1991, No. 655 Squadron AAC moved from RAF Ballykelly to Aldergrove with the Westland Lynx AH Mk 7 helicopter.[28]

On 1 October 1993, the Northern Ireland Regiment Army Air Corps was retitled 5 Regiment Army Air Corps.[28]

On 4 August 2008, 651 Squadron Army Air Corps moved back to Northern Ireland from RAF Odiham almost 50 years after its first deployment there.[28]

Post Operation BANNER[edit]

A British Army Air Corps Gazelle helicopter similar to that now based at Aldergrove

During the latter years of Operation BANNER, 5 Regiment Army Air Corps and 230 Squadron RAF came under the control of the Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) and formed the Joint Helicopter Force Northern Ireland (JHF(NI)). As the site was no longer a major RAF establishment it became Joint Helicopter Command Flying Station Aldergrove.

After the end of Operation BANNER, a number of other Army units were relocated to Aldergrove. The base was no longer therefore administered by the JHC and on 1 Apr 2013 became Aldergrove Flying Station under command of 38 (Irish) Brigade.

5 Regiment Army Air Corps continues to operate at Aldergrove, providing Gazelle, Defender and Islander aircraft in support of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and military units for Operation Helvetic, and for other operations abroad.[34]

Due to the closure of RAF Machrihanish, the base is now used for University Air Squadron and Air Training Corps cadets as a training camp, where cadets from Scotland and Northern Ireland Region gather for flying experiences, fieldcraft, shooting, first aid and other activities.

During 2003 Air Force One arrived at the airport in support of U.S. presidential visits to Northern Ireland.

Aldergrove officially ceased to be an RAF Station on 20 September 2009 when, after the annual Battle of Britain parade, the RAF ensign was lowered for the last time and the Joint Helicopter Command flag was hoisted in its place.[35]

No. 651 Squadron's Britten-Norman Islander and Defender aircraft were retired from service in June 2021.[36]

Based units[edit]

Units based at Aldergrove:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 24.
  2. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 23.
  3. ^ a b c Jefford 1988, p. 95.
  4. ^ a b Jefford 1988, p. 71.
  5. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 27.
  6. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 50.
  7. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 73.
  8. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 74.
  9. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 77.
  10. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 75.
  11. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 54.
  12. ^ a b Jefford 1988, p. 82.
  13. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 78.
  14. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 79.
  15. ^ a b Jefford 1988, p. 58.
  16. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 41.
  17. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 69.
  18. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 85.
  19. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 72.
  20. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 51.
  21. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 44.
  22. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 97.
  23. ^ Northern Ireland Committee of Irish Congress of Trade Unions, "The Defence Stations in Northern Ireland: The Case for Retention", March 1976
  24. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 83.
  25. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 68.
  26. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 76.
  27. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 102.
  28. ^ a b c d "5 Regiment Army Air Corps". British Army. Archived from the original on 2 October 2015. Retrieved 27 February 2020.
  29. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 57.
  30. ^ Jefford 1988, p. 47.
  31. ^ "72(R) Squadron - Key Dates". RAF. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  32. ^ "230 Squadron". RAF. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  33. ^ "Aldergrove (Belfast) (Crumlin)". Airfields of Britain Conservation Trust. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  34. ^ "Operation HELVETIC - Joint Helicopter Force Northern Ireland (JHF(NI))". National Archives - RAF. Archived from the original on 8 November 2012. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  35. ^ Lowering of RAF Ensign Archived 6 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine RAF Website]
  36. ^ "Farewell Islander/Defender". Scramble Dutch Aviation Society. 11 July 2021. Retrieved 8 September 2021.
  37. ^ "665 Squadron Army Air Corps". British Army. Archived from the original on 2 October 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  38. ^ "Air Support Unit". Police Service of Northern Ireland. Retrieved 27 February 2020.
  39. ^ "PSNI – Air Support Unit EC-145". Flying In Ireland Magazine. September 2010. Archived from the original on 13 November 2014.
  40. ^ "1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing" (PDF). Insight Magazine. Winter 2020: 28.
  41. ^ "502 Squadron RAuxAF". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 27 February 2020.
  42. ^ "Northern Ireland Universities' Air Squadron (NIUAS)". Royal Air Force. Retrieved 27 February 2020.


  • Docherty, Tom. Ours to Hold: RAF Aldergrove at War, 1939–1945. Cowbit, Spalding, Lincolnshire, UK: Old Forge Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-1-906183-03-5.
  • Jefford, C G (1988). RAF Squadrons. A comprehensive record of the movement and equipment of all RAF squadrons and their antecedents since 1912. Shrewsbury: Airlife. ISBN 1-85310-053-6.

External links[edit]