The UK Royal Air Force’s (RAF) 84 Squadron is celebrating its 50th anniversary of operations from its base in RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.
The occasion was marked by a parade at the base, as well as a three-ship flypast.
The squadron, which operates a fleet of Bell Griffin HAR2 aircraft, primarily provides SAR and transport services in support of British military personnel based in Cyprus.
The squadron also regularly provides support to Cypriot authorities, including the provision of aerial firefighting – it played a valuable role in 2021 during unprecedented wildfires across the island, dropping over 112 tonnes of water on the blazes over two days.
The squadron the RAF’s last remaining search and rescue (SAR) squadron following the dissolution of all other RAF SAR operations in 2016.
The squadron was reformed in Cyprus in 1972
Squadron 84 was reformed at RAF Akrotiri in 1972, and initially flew a set of Westland Whirlwind helicopters. Early SAR missions included the rescue of an archbishop, RAF pilots and 125 passengers from a sinking Turkish ferry during a heavy storm.
In December 1981, the squadron replaced its Whirlwind fleet with Wessex helicopters. The aircraft were subsequently the first aircraft deployed to Beirut during the Lebanon crisis, flying 27 sorties to transfer British embassy staff out of the country. The upgrade also enabled the introduction of firefighting capabilities to the squadron.
In its most recent fleet upgrade in 2003, the Wessex aircraft were replaced with the current Griffin helicopters. That year also saw the appointment of Nicky Smith as squadron commander – the first woman to command an RAF flying squadron.