Wattisham: Apaches set for Libya deployment

PILOTS from a Suffolk base are set to play a major role in unlocking the deadlock in Libya.

Apache helicopters from Wattisham Airfield near Stowmarket are being lined up to break the stalemate in the conflict, it is understood.

The Ministry of Defence stopped short of confirming the deployment last night but said all “options were being looked at”.

Any deployment of pilots from the base will not feature Prince Harry, who is at Wattisham being trained to use the Apache, one of most lethal aircraft ever created.

French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said yesterday France and Britain would send attack helicopters to Libya as soon as possible.

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But a spokesman for the MoD said last night: “As with any military campaign, we are constantly reviewing our options alongside allies to enhance the capabilities available to NATO.”

It is understood that, if authorised, Apaches could fly from HMS Ocean in the Mediterranean for joint operations with French aircraft to stop the forces of dictator Muammar Gaddafi targeting civilians in Misrata.

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The spokesman added: “Nothing has been confirmed – all the statements flying around have not come from us.

“But if it turns out they are used they will come from Wattisham. That’s because all our Apaches in this country are based there.”

Mr Longuet, speaking to reporters in Brussels after the French confirmed they would be sending attack helicopters to Libya, said: “The British, who have similar resources to us, are going to do the same thing we are.”

Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “While not commenting on any particular deployment, remember that the tactics of the Gaddafi regime have changed over the weeks of this action. So sometimes, what we do in response, the assets we use in response, our own tactics, do also have to change.”

Wattisham is home to the British Army’s Apache helicopter gunship fleet in the form of 3 and 4 regiment of the Army Air Corp.

Meanwhile Apache helicopters are set for a starring role at The Suffolk Show, which is being held at Trinity Park, Ipswich, on June 1 and 2.

While at previous show there have just been static display of the helicopters, this year they will form part of an exclusive military display by Wattisham Army Air Corps.

Crews were seen at Trinity Park yesterday rehearsing for the event.

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