The French Kolwezi rescue mission in 1978 highlighted the lack of a UK rapid intervention force following the disbandment of the 16th Parachute Brigade in 1977. A limited capability was restored in the form of a Parachute Contingency Force of initially one battalion and then two by 1981. After the Falklands conflict in 1982 5 Infantry Brigade was enlarged and re-designated 5 Airborne Brigade in November 1983.
5 Airborne Brigade became one of the two core brigades alongside 3 Commando Brigade belonging to the Joint Rapid Deployment Force under command of the 3rd (UK) Division. Its priority role was to deploy with the 3rd Division as part of the allied Command Europe (ACE) Rapid Reaction corps (ARRC).
A large number of home and overseas exercises practicing a reinforcement or Service Protected Evacuation (SPE) role were conducted in the 1980s. The Brigade Logistics Battalion deployed to Rwanda in a humanitarian capacity with elements of 9 Parachute Squadron and 23 Parachute Field Ambulance following ethnic genocide in 1994.
In June 1999 Headquarters 5 Airborne Brigade deployed to Kosovo with the 1 PARA Battle Group and Pathfinder Platoon for the NATO KFOR intervention. This was the first and last large scale deployment.
In September 1999 the unit was re-titled 12 Mechanised Brigade and 1 and 2 PARA alongside all the Brigade combat and service support units came under command of the new 16th Air Assault Brigade that formed up in Colchester.
Order of Battle:
See the Paradata Order of Battle Chart for unit details.
Brig A Jeepes 1983-5
Brig R Corbett 1985-7
Brig DR Chaundler, OBE 1987-9
Brig NWF Richards, OBE 1989-91
Brig CNG Delves, DSO, OBE 1991-3
Brig GCM Lamb, OBE 1995-7
Brig AR Freer, OBE 1997-9