RAF News

Operation PITTING - The Moving Story

Personnel inside the Globemaster C-17.

As the RAF prepared to undertake the largest humanitarian aid operation for over 70 years, 1 Air Mobility Wing augmentees from the Joint Movements Squadron were forward deployed to the Middle East at 24 hours notice.

Once in theatre, they supported 906 Expeditionary Air Wing for Operation PITTING where their combined efforts were vital to the extraction of over 15,000 evacuees from Kabul, Afghanistan.  This included the record carriage by an RAF Globemaster, 439 passengers out of Kabul on a single flight.  The supplies they carried ranged from clothing and baby food for the evacuees, to the transportation of explosives, weapons and ammunition.

Globemaster taking off from airfield.
An RAF Globemaster carried 439 passengers out of Kabul on a single flight.

"I personally found it challenging, nothing can prepare you for the heat and the intensity of such a high-octane operation.  I felt I learnt a lot from the experience and can now deliver movements on a much larger scale.  Overall, I found it highly rewarding to be involved with Operation PITTING and to have contributed to the efforts of saving thousands of lives."

Senior Aircraftman Wallace
Specialist Mover, 1 Air Mobility Wing

Afghan evacuees and personnel inside the Globemaster C-17.
The RAF flew 15,000 people out of Kabul, as part of an overall evacuation of over 122,000.

Operation PITTING, the UK’s evacuation of civilians from Afghanistan, began on 14th August 2021 as part of a multi-national extraction of entitled persons by respective countries.  Between the start of the operation and the final flight on 28th August 2021, in excess of 15,000 people were flown out of Kabul by the RAF as part of an overall evacuation of over 122,000.

Afghan evacuees exit the Globemaster C-17.

"The team should be extremely proud of themselves for what was achieved. They had no previous operational experience and responded with less than 24-hours notice, working on minimal sleep and completing busy 16-hour days. The work ethic shown was incredible to witness.  Our primary focus was on the C-17 and around 10,000 evacuees were saved by that aircraft. This displayed the true operational capabilities of Joint Movements Squadron, where a small team can work tirelessly to get the job done."

Sergeant Lenehan

Specialist movers push crate onto Globemaster C-17 loading space.
Personnel from Joint Movements Squadron, 1 Air Mobility Wing and 906 Expeditionary Air Wing all contributed their efforts to Operation PITTING.

The team of specialist movers were deployed to Joint Movements Squadron at RAF Akrotiri from their home base at 1 Air Mobility Wing, RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.  However, the unprecedented scale and urgency of the evacuation of civilians from Kabul, meant they were in turn moved to support 906 Expeditionary Air Wing at its Middle East location for the duration of the operation.  Working from 906 Expeditionary Air Wing, the conduit between RAF Brize Norton, RAF Akrotiri and Kabul Airport, the team handled 165 aircraft in seven days.

Air Movers tend to kit.

"The wider 1 Air Mobility Wing effort supported all elements of Operation PITTING including the rapid deployment of personnel and equipment from RAF Brize Norton.  At short notice we deployed teams forward to Kabul and the United Arab Emirates to provide movements support to all aircraft operating into and out of those locations; we provided movements support for all aircraft returning to Brize Norton with the evacuees, as well as the recovery of the military personnel and their equipment.  I am extremely proud of the hard work, professionalism and determination displayed by all of my team; they were critical to the success of Operation PITTING and should be proud of their vital contribution to the operation."

Wing Commander Lewis
Officer Commanding 1 Air Mobility Wing

Personnel in high-vis guides Globemaster C-17 onto runway.