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6 Régiment d'Hélicoptères de Combat; Compiègne, May 28, 2000

The Italian Regiment of the ALAT; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The 6 Régiment d'Hélicoptères de Combat (6 RHC) is a unit of French l'Aviation Légère de l'Armée de Terre (ALAT) and is stationed on the General Stephen base in Margny-lès-Compiègne in the French Oise. The regiment is nowadays a modern helicopter regiment and flies with different types of Gazelles and Pumas.

The 6 RHC was established in its current form on August 1, 1977. The unit is stationed at the helicopter base Compiègne located 50 km north of Paris. The 6 RHC carries the traditions of the 3rd Observation platoon of the Algerian Infantry Division (1943-1945) and the light aviation group of the 8th Division of the French Army (1948-1958) (GALDIV 8). During the Second World War, the 3rd Algerian Infantry Platoon fought during the campaigns in Italy, France and Germany. In 1945, this platoon was honored by General de Lattre de Tassigny on the order of the corps by the deployment during the battle in Italy in particular. This is why the crest of the 6 RHC carries the inscription "Italy 1944". The necktie of the officers of the unit are decorated with the "Croix de Guerre 1939-1945" with a gilded star. This award is linked to the unit through its long-term commitment during the Second World War and is by highly exemption awarded to an entire unit. The badge of the 6 RHC carries the lion named "Valois" and is crowned and has the coat of arms of the city of Compiègne. The wings symbolize the membership of the French group of light aircraft of the army. The lily flower at the bottom of the emblem indicates that the unit was established as a French royal unit in a distant past of France. From 1956, the first helicopters came into service of the unit which until then only operated with light aircraft as an extension of the artillery. The first helicopters which entered service were of the type Allouette II.

The name GALDIV 8 was officially linked to the current 6 RHC on August 1, 1977. The new regiment was also be officially fulltime stationed at Compiègne from that moment on. Previously, parts of the regiment were stationed at Lille airport. Three helicopter units were assigned to the 6 RHC at the time of establishment. These units, were; 1x an EHL with ten SA341 Gazelle helicopters, 1x an EHA with ten Allouette II SS11 helicopters and 1x an EHM with ten SA330 Puma helicopters. The first detachment with light helicopters to be sent abroad was conducted by Captain Maitrot on March

23, 1978. At that time, the personnel of the detachment consisted of an officer, ten non-commissioned officers and four other men. The material of the deployment involved three Allouette II Astazou helicopters. This detachment returned from Lebanon on September 29, 1978. During this stay the unit flew 1200 missions in 750 flight hours, including 50 medical evacuations. In October 1978, the Allouette III SS11 replaced the Allouette II Astazou in the EHA. At the beginning of 1981, the regiment consists of an ECS, an ESR and an EHL with ten SA341 Gazelle helicopters (coded ACx), an EHA with ten Allouette III SS11 helicopters (coded AEx) and an EHM with eleven SA330 Pumas (coded ADx). A second EHL was established on July 1, 1984. However, the escadrille was quickly disconnected from the 6 RHC, because this unit was relocated to Lille Lesquin to support the air missions command of the 3rd Corps.

On July 1, 1985, the equipment of the 6 RHC was partially limited by the establishment and equipment of the 7 RHC and the 4 RHCMS. As a result, the Puma fleet was reduced to only nine helicopters and only one EHM remained. The 6 RHC had also to donate another twelve helicopters for the needs of transport of high civil and military authorities for the ministerial air connections Group (GLAM). Every summer the 6 RHC practices with an Allouette III and his crew at the SAMU 21 in Dijon. A second anti-tank escadrille was formed in 1986 by eight extra SA342 Gazelles equipped with the HOT missiles. In 1987, the 2nd EHL replaced its Allouette II with ten Allouette III helicopters. In 1991, 56 troops of the regiment strengthened the "Daguet" operation in the Gulf. In July 1992, the 6 RHC received, after the dissolution of the 2 RHC, an additional anti-tank squadron (5 EHAC) with eight SA342M Gazelles. Alternately with the 7 RHC, the 6 RHC performs UNPROFOR missions in Split from May 1993 to August 1995. In the year 1996, a third EHAP was created with SA342 helicopters equipped with a side-mounted 20mm gun. The Allouette III was phased out during this period and replaced by Gazelles for all tasks. On June 30, 1998, the connection escadrille at Lille was dissolved. The regiment has been professionalized since this year. The defense and protection framework, consisting of reservists, was created in May.

The current 6 RHC consists of a total of 12 escadrilles, six of which are equipped with helicopters. The other six escadrilles are units that support helicopter operations at Compiègne. The ground units all have different tasks and these units, are; 1 escadrille de commandement et de logistique (ECL) (command and logistics squadron), 1 escadrille de contrôle et ravitaillement (ECR) (squadron for security and FARP), 1 escadrille d'administration and the soutien (EAS) (squadron for administration and support), 2 escadrilles de maintenances hélicoptères (EMH) (squadrons for helicopter maintenance) and 1 escadrille de défense et de protection (EDP) (surveillance squadron) which consists mainly of reservists. The helicopter units of the 6 RHC, are; 1 escadrille d'hélicoptères de reconnaissance (EHR) (reconnaissance helicopter squadron) and is equipped with the unarmed version of the SA341 Gazelle, 2 escadrille d'hélicoptères d'appui-protection (EHAP) (supporting helicopter squadron) and is equipped with the SA342 Gazelle which is armed with a 20mm cannon on the side, 1 escadrille d'hélicoptères d'attaque (EHA) (attack helicopter squadron) and is equipped with the SA342 Gazelle with HOT Air-Ground missiles , 1 escadrille d'hélicoptères de maneuver (EHM) (utility helicopter squadron) and is equipped with the SA330 Puma and finally 1 'escadrille d'hélicoptères de l'Armée de Terre (EHADT) (connecting helicopter squadron) and is equipped with the SA341 Gazelle for connection missions and command-supporting missions for army personnel. With all these helicopters with their specific tasks, the 6 RHC is a fully independent deployable regiment.

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