Air Support Changes to MND-SW

Capt. Rhoda Frampton
First published in
SFOR Informer#143, July 18, 2002

On July 1 all of Multinational Division Southwest (MND-SW) underwent a change to the current system of air support and responsibility. This change significantly impacted the Netherlands and United Kingdom Battle Groups.

Banja Luka - "Originally the Netherlands agreed to provide support for a year and a half," said Lt. Col. Robert Meijer, Deputy Chief of Staff of the NL Contingent. "The British are all over the world and there was not enough capacity to provide, so we agreed to continue the Immediate Response Team (IRT) task."
From Dutch to British
The 1 (NL) Helidet SFOR formerly stationed at Divulje Barracks, a Croatian Air Force Base in the vicinity of Split, headed back to 298 Squadron Airbase Soesterberg at the end of June. Two Cougar A-533 from 300 Squadron, Airbase Soesterberg and three Sea Kings from 846 Naval Air Squadron, Yeovilton, UK, replaced them.
"For people it is sad to leave a place like Split and go to Bugojno," said Lt. Col. Remco van Ravenzwaaij, Detachment Commander of 1 (NL) Helidet. "But for the whole reduction of numbers in SFOR and for the amount of work that Soesterberg has to put in to continue helicopter support I think it is a good thing."
Fourth (NL) Helidet is the new detachment within MND-SW from the Netherlands based in Bugojno. The role of the 50-person detachment is to provide IRT support only. Being based in Bugojno saves on manpower as it already has an infrastructure in place such as the guard platoon, kitchen staff, internal affairs as well as the reduction in aircrew as there will now only be the two helicopters; one each in one in Bugojno and Sipovo.
In order to prepare for these changes in Bugojno construction of a clam shelter, enlarging the helicopter pad and more accommodations were required.
The change for the UK Battle Group is the approximate 50 personnel from 846 Naval Air Squadron, Yeovilton in Somerset, UK. They arrived at Banja Luka on June 25 and will stay until November when the RAF will replace them.
Sea Kings
This group will consist of nine officers, headquarters and training staff, pilots, engineers, aircraft handlers and administrative staff, all directly supporting the three Sea King Helicopters fulfilling the UK's role of providing general transport.
The Sea Kings operationally seat 16, but these numbers will be reduced given the current heat conditions in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The three Sea Kings are back up to the IRT if required. They have day and night capability as well as having proven themselves in all types of environments ranging from desert to arctic conditions.
"The Squadron is very keen on coming in, the sister squadron 845 used to work out of Split, they were here for ten years," said Lt. (RN) David Brewin, a pilot with the 846 Naval Air Squadron. "Eight hundred forty six are here now in a different location, very keen to fly the environment and get the experience and be part of the NATO environment,” he said.
In order to accommodate this change, Banja Luka staff had to make modifications, such as developing flight co-ordination, improvments to the operations complex, refurbishment of the fire station to include Rapid Intervention Vehicles and the provision of accommodations.
"It was a very immense undertaking in a very short period of time, bearing in mind that construction didn't begin until April," said Lt. Col. Russ Britfor, Deputy Commander. "I think that we have achieved a huge amount in a very short space of time."

Related link:
Nations of SFOR: UK, Netherland
Restructuring and Reserves

Click on thumbnail to enlarge
Photos: Cpl. Grant Rivalin

A Sea King helicopter from 846 Naval Air Squadron in Yeovilton, UK, departs from MND-SW HQ Banja Luka. Effective July 1 the Sea Kings will provide general transport as well as backup to the IRT if required.

Click on thumbnail to enlarge

The Chinook Helicopters and 1 (NL) Helidet SFOR formerly stationed at Divulje Barracks, a Croatian Air Force Base, headed back to 298 Squadron Airbase Soesterberg at the end of June.

Click on thumbnail to enlarge

Lt. (RN) David Brewin, a pilot with the 846 Naval Air Squadron from Yeovilton, UK, performs a pre-flight safety inspection on a Sea King helicopter now based out of MND-SW Headquarters in Banja Luka.