As a result of the Smuts reports of Jun and Oct 1917 which reviewed the future of air fighting arrangments, the Air Force (Constitution) Act of Nov 1917 created the Royal Air Force by amalgamating the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service on 1 Apr 1918. It was an unpopular decision, but driven through against almost overwhelming opposition, largely by Sir Hugh Trenchard and a small group of ex-Army officers. A period of contraction occurred after World War I, followed by an expansion programme from 1934. Then in May 1939, the units of the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Air Force were returned to Royal Navy
The RAF was active in many types of flying but the first steps with rotary wing machines, initially in 1926 with the assessment of the Cierva C8 at Farnborough
, were followed in 1934 by the introduction of Cierva C30A autogyros, for Army Co-operation purposes but found a later role as a means of calibrating the ground breaking new radar equipment used in the various Chain Home family of systems. These were followed by the Cierva C.40 (aka Rota II) and then the first true helicopter as the Hoverfly R-4 in 1945 and the introduction to service of the Sycamore
by the end of 1953. On 1 Sep 1957, the RAF relinquished its Air Observation Post (AOP) Squadrons and Light Liaison Flights to the newly formed Army Air Corps
Since 1 Oct 1999, when Joint Helicopter Command was formed, the RAF has committed 7
Squadrons with their Chinook
and (from 2002), 28(AC) Squadron
with its Merlin
helicopters to this tri-service organisation.
With effect from Nov 2007 78 Sqn was re formed at RAF Benson to fly the Merlin HC3A. The RAF brought these six Merlins from the Danish Air Force to boster the Support Helicopter Force.
Following an outcome of the 2010 Defence SDSR, 78 Sq (Joint Helicopter Command) passed its Merlins in Sep 2014 to 846 NAS
as part of the fleet transfer to the Commando Helicopter Force.