660 Squadron named as first unit to disband

THE Army Air Corps' 660 Squadron will be the first unit to disband in the withdrawal of the British Garrison.

The squadron will stop flying before the end of the year, but its four Scout helicopters may be left in Hong Kong.

Sources said yesterday that unless they were redeployed to Brunei, where a flight using Scouts would remain operational, the army would dispose of the 30-year-old helicopters here.

Some of the squadron's personnel, totalling between 100 and 200, may be made redundant under the continuing Options for Change cutbacks by the Ministry of Defence which affect all units.

The others will be transferred to other Army Air Corps units in Europe or to other British regiments when the unit disbands early next year.

The squadron, which celebrated its 50th anniversary this month, is believed to be the last overseas unit using Scout helicopters.

Other areas of the garrison have been trimmed, but 660 Squadron will be the first to disappear since the Commander of British Forces, Major-General John Foley, announced the withdrawal plan in July.

The squadron provides light helicopter support, in conjunction with the medium air lift capability of the Royal Air Force (RAF) 28 Squadron Wessex helicopters.

The Scouts are used to move small numbers of people and in the joint police and Garrison Operation Disavow - part of the anti-smuggling task force.

A source said: ''The Scouts will not be taken back to the UK or Europe by the army.

''They'll be left here. The Government could take them if it wanted, or they could end up in an aviation museum. No one really knows yet.'' A spokesman for the garrison confirmed 660 Squadron would be the first unit to disband.

The RAF in Hong Kong will also cut its helicopter fleet in the lead-up to 1997.

It had been planned that two of the eight Wessex helicopters would be taken out of service by the end of next year.

But after the loss of one helicopter in Severe Tropical Storm Becky, the RAF is expected to return only one to the UK.