Unit History: Air Assault Brigade
16 Air Assault Brigade (16 Air Asslt Bde) (Not 16th) is a formation of the British Army.
It was formed as part of the defence reforms implemented by the Strategic Defence Review on 1 September 1999 by the merging of 24 Airmobile Brigade and elements of 5th Airborne Brigade. This grouping created a highly mobile brigade of parachute units and airmobile units which employ helicopters.
The brigade HQ is based in Colchester Garrison and numbers around 6,000 to 8,000 personnel. It is under the operational command of the tri-service Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) and is assigned to the British-led Allied Rapid Reaction Corps of NATO as Corps Troops. (For administrative purposes, it is under the control of 4th Division when in its base at Colchester). It may be allocated to 1st (UK) Armoured or 3rd UK Mechanised Division for operations outside Britain. The brigade maintains a pool of its forces which may be allocated to the tri-service Joint Rapid Reaction Force (JRRF).
It is primarily designed to be rapidly deployable across the world, able to deal with situations in peacetime such as national emergencies; relief operations for natural disasters across the world, and evacuation of British subjects and other countries’ citizens (as seen in Sierra Leone in 2000 during Operation Palliser). In war the brigade is intended to undertake an array of operations, including taking quickly and holding ground until relieved by other forces, sometimes over great distances if needed; carrying out large-scale raids; assisting in defensive operations, including the defence of units’ flanks, and supporting special forces. The brigade demonstrated its ability to carry out these type of operations during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Due to the brigade’s mobile role it is lightly armed and equipped. The brigade’s land equipment includes Scimitars, WMIK Land Rovers, Supacats, towed L118 105 mm light guns, Javelin anti-tank and lightweight Starstreak air-defence missile launchers. The aviation element of the brigade consists of three attack regiments equipped with WAH-64 Apache and Lynx helicopters from the Army Air Corps, and Chinook, Merlin and Puma support helicopters from the RAF. The brigade is also supported by the RAF’s Hercules transport aircraft fleet.