THREE military helicopters have been stationed in Scotland to help support medical transports in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The RAF Puma helicopters are now stationed at Kinloss Barracks in Moray. This new support follows last weekend’s use of an RAF A400M transport aircraft, working with the Scottish Ambulance Service, to evacuate a critically ill coronavirus patient from the Shetland Islands to Aberdeen to receive intensive care treatment.

The Puma crews will work alongside a Chinook and a Wildcat helicopter, based at RAF Leeming in North Yorkshire, to support NHS boards across Scotland and northern England.

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A second helicopter facility will cover the Midlands and southern England, working out of the Aviation Task Force Headquarters at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire. Chinook and Wildcat helicopters normally based at RAF Odiham and RNAS Yeovilton respectively will support the Southern areas.

The dedicated helicopters will be tasked with supporting medical transport as well as general support - including moving equipment and personnel across the wider UK.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The creation of these helicopter hubs is the next step in our armed forces’ contribution to tackling the coronavirus outbreak whenever it appears throughout the United Kingdom.

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“Our aircraft are ready to support emergency services and local communities wherever needed across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland – the armed forces have always got your back.

"In addition, our superb military planners and logisticians are engaging with the governments and health services of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to support their efforts in responding to the virus."

All the helicopter forces will be supported by the Joint Helicopter Support Squadron, normally based at RAF Benson, as well as the Tactical Supply Wing, based at MOD Stafford.

Personnel from all three services across the Joint Helicopter Command will be coming together to support the task force.

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Deputy First Minister 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.”

A team of army medical, logistics, supply and humanitarian relief planners joined the Scottish Government’s emergency co-ordination centre team earlier this week.

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Group Captain Adam Wardrope DFC, Aviation Task Force Commander, said: “We are at high readiness to provide support to anywhere in the UK that needs it.

“We have operationally experienced crews who are on standby to assist with medical evacuations across the nation in response to Covid-19.

“We also have the capability to support the NHS with the distribution of critical equipment and personnel as needed.”