The two Royal Air Force personnel killed in a helicopter accident in Afghanistan have been named as Flight Lieutenants Geraint 'Roly' Roberts and Alan 'Scotty' Scott. Both officers were part of the Puma helicopter force based at Oxfordshire's RAF Benson.
Speaking about their loss the Station Commander Group Captain Simon Paterson said: "Today we mourn the loss of two of our most capable and dedicated colleagues and friends, both of whom were exceptional men who made a massive impact on the Puma Force and, indeed, the Station."
"They will be greatly missed by all and we send our heartfelt condolences to the families of Flight Lieutenant Alan Scott and Flight Lieutenant Geraint ‘Roly’ Roberts."
"A well-respected pilot, Alan was part of the core team which make up the Puma Force. His experience and level-headed nature made him an ideal pilot to go to Afghanistan on operations. His passion and enthusiasm for the job were second to none and he was a large part of the success that the Puma 2 has become.
I completed my Puma 2 conversion course with Roly last year and have known him as long as I have been flying Support Helicopters. He was a military man to his core and was the epitome of all that the RAF represents. It was an honour to have served and flown with him. Their outstanding contributions to the Service and Station will not be forgotten and they will live on in our hearts and minds."
Flt Lt Alan Scott was 32 and had served in the RAF for nine years. His commanding officer, Wing Commander Mark Biggadike paid tribute saying: ""Scotty was a highly professional and diligent officer and pilot. Not one to seek the limelight, Scotty was one of the most dependable and intelligent officers I have had the pleasure of working with."
"Scotty was the man I would turn to above all others to takle challenging issues that required analytical thought or logic."
Flt Lt Scott's widow spoke of her loss: "My heart is broken at the fact such a vivacious, young and amazing person can be taken so cruelly and suddenly."
"Nothing I can say here - or anywhere else - could ever do justice to the thoroughly excellent man I'm proud to call my husband. Rest in peace, my love."
Flt Lt Geraint Roberts joined the RAF in 1988. He was married with two children. Flt Lt Roberts' friend and colleague Flight Lieutenant Kevin Hare said: "He cared about his job so much, constantly pushing the rest of us and never accepting mediocrity"
"He spoke with such joy about his time growing up in North Wales, and strove to ensure he gave his own children the best opportunities and experiences. Our detachment and our squadron will not be the same without him."
The crash happened when a Puma Mark 2 was landing at NATO’s Resolute Support Mission headquarters in Kabul. The MOD has confirmed it as an accident, not the result of insurgent activity and a full investigation is underway.
Reports from the scene say the aircraft appeared to have hit an observation or ISTAR balloon as it landed. A US Army spokesman says the balloon was severed from its mooring.
In tribute the Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon said:
"Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with the families and loved ones of the deceased at this extremely difficult time. This is a stark reminder that our brave service personnel continue to work night and day in a hostile and challenging environment."
This is likely to have been a routine flight; helicopters are often used by personnel as a preferred means of travel across the city due to the risks of moving by road.
Combat troops may have left Afghanistan but NATO’s mission is an enduring one, to train, advise and assist Afghan forces. Up to 500 personnel are involved – mainly operating from Kabul International Airport, the Headquarters in the centre of Kabul and at the training centre at Qargha, some 50 kilometres away.
The total number of British forces personnel or MoD civilians killed in Afghanistan since 2001 now stands at 456. News of their deaths came just hours after a convoy of British military Foxhound vehicles was attacked by an improvised explosive device in a separate incident in Kabul on Sunday morning. hree civilians were wounded but no one was killed.
There have been a number of attacks in the Afghan capital in recent weeks – but these latest deaths, a tragic accident that will be mourned by many.