Three RAF Puma helicopters flew into Kinloss Barracks today from RAF Benson in South Oxfordshire to support the battle against Covid-19.
The Pumas, which can carry up to 16 passengers or two tonnes of cargo, will work closely with a Chinook and a Wildcat helicopter based at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire, to meet any requests for assistance from NHS boards and trusts across Scotland and Northern England. A second helicopter facility will cover the Midlands and Southern England.
The helicopter facilities have been set up to support medical transports across Scotland and the rest of the UK. The new task force will also be available for general support such as moving equipment and personnel across the wider UK.
This new Kinloss-based support follows last weekend’s use of an RAF A400M transport aircraft, working with the Scottish Ambulance Service, to evacuate a critically ill patient from the Shetland Islands to Aberdeen to receive intensive care treatment.
The aviation support is in addition to a team of Army medical, logistics, supply and humanitarian relief planners who joined the Scottish Government’s Emergency Co-ordination Centre team in Edinburgh earlier this week.
The team of military planners and liaison officers are now co-locating at St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh. This team will be supported by the Battalion Headquarters of Penicuik-based 2 SCOTS, The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland. Additionally, a wider team of military liaison personnel will be made available to every health board in Scotland.
Lt Gen Tyrone Urch CBE, Standing Joint Commander added: “The addition of these two aviation task forces, one in Scotland the other in England, bring another vital capability to the UK’s combined effort against COVID-19.
“My team and I will ensure that they are on task 24/7 across the UK for as long as is necessary to support the Government and our NHS as they respond to this national crisis.”
Deputy First Minister of Scotland John Swinney said: “Scotland’s public services and our NHS are working flat out to support the effort to tackle Covid-19. Our Scottish Government resilience operation has always had a strong working relationship with the Armed Forces, offering assistance during severe weather, and we welcome their support during these unprecedented and difficult times.”
Ready for action
Moray MP Douglas Ross added: “This demonstrates how serious the situation is but should also reassure people in Moray and the north of Scotland that the Government is at a full state of readiness to deal with coronavirus cases and will be assisting local health boards wherever required.
“In Moray we have always known how lucky we are to have a large military presence here, and have welcomed them as a vital part of our community, appreciating the work they do to keep us safe, This extra response and creation of a helicopter hub at Kinloss Barracks shows Moray is again at the centre of the operation to assist with the Covid-19 outbreak and we thank everyone for their efforts at this challenging time.”