The UK Royal Air Force (RAF) Odiham-based Chinook Force No 18 and 27 Squadrons participated in Exercise Ventus Magnus at El Centro in southern California, US, in preparation for ongoing operations in Afghanistan.

RAF Odiham station commander Group Captain Steve Shell said El Centro replicates Afghanistan better than previous environmental training locations and offers greater potential for other combat-ready workup training sorties.

27 Squadron flight sergeant Dan Baxter said they were able to overlay what exists in Afghanistan and conduct framework tasking, deliberate operations and simulated immediate response team (IRT) tasks.

The RAF Odiham joint helicopter support squadron (JHSS) personnel acted as ‘white force’ during tactical exercises, playing the roles of passenger handlers, army commanders and even simulated casualties for evacuation tasks.

The deployment, the first for No 18 and 27 Squadrons, followed on from earlier detachments to the same location by the army air corps Apaches and Lynx aircraft and the RAF’s Merlin force.