Showing posts with label RAF. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RAF. Show all posts

15 April, 2024

RAF Fighter Squadron arrives in Romania

RAF Fighter Squadron arrives in Romania to co-lead NATO Air Policing mission

Royal Air Force fighter jets have started protecting NATO’s eastern flank, close to the Black Sea, following a handover ceremony held on 9th April in Romania. 

Six RAF Typhoon fighter aircraft are taking part in the four-month mission, with jets from IX (Bomber) Squadron, along with more than two hundred RAF personnel from 140 Expeditionary Air Wing (140EAW) deployed from RAF Lossiemouth to Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania. They will fly alongside the Romanian Air Force as part of NATO’s enhanced Air Policing mission until August.

The air policing mission begins this week following a ceremony today, 9th April, involving RAF personnel, their Romanian counterparts, and NATO officials. The personnel involved in the mission will be on standby at a moment’s notice to launch Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) intercepts of Russian aircraft approaching NATO airspace.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said:  “Our NATO air policing deployment helps to keep Europe’s skies secure, and I pay tribute to the dedicated personnel delivering this important mission.

Ready to launch at a moment’s notice for the next four months, the Typhoon pilots will respond with professionalism to threats and incidents in support of our collective security. 

We’re showing the scale of our commitment to NATO in its 75th year, with deployments like this and thousands of personnel operating and exercising across the alliance to keep the UK and our allies safe.”

The countries involved in NATO’s air policing missions rotate on a regular basis, with the RAF having flown to intercept more than 50 Russian aircraft in the first half of last year while leading the Alliance’s enhanced air policing mission from Estonia. This will be the fifth time the RAF have participated in the air policing mission in Romania.

08 April, 2024

UK first as electric aircraft helps turn Moray Flying Club green

UK first as electric aircraft helps turn Moray Flying Club green
RAF Lossiemouth’s Moray Flying Club has begun flying a new electric aircraft, putting it on track to become the UK’s first recreational flying club to offer direct carbon emission-free initial pilot training.

The new Pipistrel Velis Electro aircraft - callsign ‘MORAY 01 ELECTRIC’ - took to the skies on Sunday 24 March 2024 for its first training flight. 

Moray Flying Club (MFC) recently leased the aircraft from electric-flying specialists NEBOair, as part of a drive to reduce the environmental and noise impact of their flying. The aircraft is powered by electricity from the grid, like an electric car.

The innovation will mean that students can reach their first solo flight without direct carbon emissions.

Other green-minded moves have enabled MFC to further cut emissions, with the use of a NEBOair-supplied Virtual Reality simulator cutting down on the overall number of flying hours needed to achieve a full private pilot’s licence.

The Club has also replaced two older aircraft with Rotax-engine aircraft that use lower-lead fuel and are much quieter.

MFC estimate that the new innovations will slash their emissions by around 30%, which they say is just the start.

Squadron Leader David Taudevin, Officer-in-charge, Moray Flying Club.  "As the RAF seeks to achieve Net Zero by 2040, ahead of the UK’s 2050 target, our recreational flying clubs need to play their part and so we’re delighted that our electric aircraft has taken to the skies.

This is a momentous occasion for us as a club and represents a big leap forward into a new world of sustainable aviation, helping Moray Flying Club’s students learn to fly in a cleaner, greener way.

While these innovations are already helping our Club significantly reduce its environmental and noise impact, cutting our direct emissions is only the first step. We hope that by sharing our experience with other military and civilian flying clubs we can help drive the recreational flying sector towards Net Zero."

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Ever wondered how much fuel RAF aircraft use?......................RAF Energise

When you think of the cost of filling up your car, and how far you will get on a full tank, have you ever wondered how much fuel RAF aircraft use?

Refuelling trucks

During a recent Exercise in France, personnel from RAF Global Enablement Support Force distributed over 500,000 litres of aviation fuel.

L'armée de l’air (France) invited RAF Atlas aircraft to this international Air Livex, Exercise Volfa 24, based in France, with other participating nations – Canada, Greece, Italy, Spain and the UAE.

Alongside aircraft, Global Enablement’s No. 2 Mechanical Transport Squadron, 5001 Squadron Engineers and No. 1 Expeditionary Logistics Squadron specialists were also asked to participate in Exercise Energise Volfa. The aim was to train together as a coalition in a complex air environment facing a high-level near peer threat. By building on Tactical Aviation refuelling capability, the RAF will remain ready to fly and fight across the globe 24 hours a day.

Aircraft being refuelled on the ground

This was a French Service de l’Énergie Opérationelle (SEO) exercise running alongside the wider Exercise Volfa, with collaboration from the UK Operational Energy Authority (OEA). UK participation was under the auspices of the Franco-British Fuels Co-operation agreement, set up by DSFA (now the OEA) with the French SEA (now the SEO) and run actively by those organisations. The UK participation was a trial, and it's hoped that lessons identified can be used to inform the NATO Modular Combined Petroleum Capability (MCPC) Co-ordination Board, which the UK is Chair of.

An RAF vehicle in the foregrund, with an aircraft in the background

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07 April, 2024

3200 mile row across the Atlantic completed by RAF Regiment Gunners

3200 miles. 61 days. 19 hours. 14 minutes. That’s how long it took the Atlantic Rocks team to row from Lanzarote to Antigua in their boat, Sentinel, covering an incredible 3200 nautical miles.
Rowing in the ocean from above.

An already challenging endeavour was made all the more difficult by weather conditions and several obstacles the team had to adapt and overcome throughout the journey.

Pictured left, all four rowers standing on the boat celebrating after the row, photo RAF.

These started when the EFOY (fuel cell) fitted to Sentinel encountered servicing issues within the first week of the crossing, which unfortunately couldn't be fixed remotely, this meant that the team had to hand and foot steer and navigate Sentinel during the day with minimal power systems, to conserve the solar power. This then allowed them to use the digital navigation systems during darkness hours through solar power generated during the day.

Overcoming the initial issues presented by the lack of EFOY was exacerbated by the 7-knot headwinds and low pressure, which made the conditions feel like the team were rowing through treacle. The team routinely rowed 40-50 nautical miles per day even through these conditions, with the weather router suggesting these were the most challenging conditions they'd encountered in 25 years!

Despite battling extremely difficult conditions for the entire row, with their journey exceeding the presumed length, the team supported the University of Michigan in their battle to tackle plastic pollution in our oceans. For example, by taking water samples and recording the latitude and longitude of where the samples were collected. These samples have now been sent to the university, to measure plastic pollution across the South Atlantic.

During the row the team came up against issues with their BGAN - used for remote Internet connectivity. Originally, it was believed the issues would rectify once in range of the westernly satellite, however, it was then determined that damage had occurred - likely in a storm - that couldn't be fixed remotely. This not only meant that media for the teams' social media couldn't be received for most of their row, but also meant that the team's communication with the outside world was limited and sadly they had limited access to any music, hampering morale slightly.

One night, the team even had a close encounter with a large tanker. They noticed the tanker was heading into their way of passage, and to avoid a potentially catastrophic event, the team tried to contact the tanker via radio multiple times, to no avail. Finally, the tanker responded and moved out of the way, roughly 100m from their vessel. Dynamic and fast thinking saw the team act with efficiency and professionalism, avoiding what could've been a much worse outcome.

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To find out more about their remarkable journey and learn more about the charities they're supporting visit:

The Centurion Fund | Supporting the RAF Regiment’s History & Traditions

SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity

14 March, 2024

U.S. approve full speed production of F-35 fighters.

The Pentagon has finally approved the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for full-rate production, five years later than originally anticipated reports Breaking Defense

The U.S. Defense Department acquisition chief Bill LaPlante signed off on the “milestone C” decision earlier this week, a crucial moment signifying the department’s confidence in the performance of the aircraft and maturity of Lockheed Martin’s production system — though the plane has already been in service in the US and with friendly foreign nations for years and has suffered a vast number of mechanical and practical issues that have resulted in an aircraft that is 80% fit for use, according to some RAF personnel working on the aircraft.   

“This is a major achievement for the F-35 Program,” LaPlante said, according to a Pentagon news release. “This decision — backed by my colleagues in the Department — highlights to the Services, F-35 Cooperative Program Partners, and Foreign Military Sales customers that the F-35 is stable and agile, and that all statutory and regulatory requirements have been appropriately addressed.”

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13 March, 2024

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal opens UK facility on UAE air base

The Princess Royal toured the brand-new Headquarters, accommodation and welfare facilities at Al Minhad Air Base (AMAB) alongside the Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff (Support Operations), Air Vice-Marshal Pratley earlier this month. They were accompanied by Sir Hobart, His Majesty’s Ambassador to the UAE, and Brigadier General Al Ketbi, AMAB Commander.

“I am delighted to attend the opening of Donnelly Lines, an essential part of the UK’s global footprint, and an example of our enduring presence overseas in what remains an uncertain world beset by turbulent times.

Our continued investment here is a further example of the UK’s commitment to the security of the region and is a tangible commitment to the work for peace, security, and stability, working hand in hand with our allies in the UAE.

The siting of Donnelly Lines at AMAB enables the UK to maintain our freedom of action and ability to conduct operations from the UAE, bolstering our operational resilience. It is of vital importance, and I recognise the hard work and stellar efforts of the team, who have, over several years, worked tirelessly around the clock to make this possible.”

Air Vice-Marshal Pratley
Project Senior Responsible Officer

A joint UAE Air Force Al Fursan and RAF A400M flypast honoured the opening ceremony which included a coalition parade and a commemoration to the late Sergeant Donnelly, whom the Lines are named after.

RAF Voyager operates with Swedish and US fighters over Scandinavia.

Royal Air Force Voyager tanker has successfully refuelled Swedish Gripen fighters taking part in NATO’s biggest exercise in decades.

The tanker was operating from RAF Lossiemouth in northern Scotland when it rendezvoused with the Swedish jets and United States Marine Corps F-35Bs, over the Arctic Circle.

Normally based at RAF Brize Norton, the Voyager flew sorties from Lossiemouth on Exercise Nordic Response, part of Exercise Steadfast Defender.

The Royal Air Force and Swedish Air Force have been increasing cooperation in recent months. This latest exercise saw dogfighting fighters refuel over Sweden, in the run-up to the country’s NATO accession. Steadfast Defender is demonstrating NATO’s ability to reinforce the Euro-Atlantic area during a simulated emerging conflict across the maritime, land, air, space and cyber domains.

Voyager is the RAF’s sole air-to-air refuelling (AAR) tanker and also operates as a strategic air transport.  The aircraft is in service as the Voyager KC.Mk 2, equipped with two underwing pods for refuelling fast jets, and as the Voyager KC.Mk 3, with an additional centreline hose for use by large aircraft. 

27 February, 2024

Ukrainian pilots learn to fly F-16 Fighter jets following basic training in the UK

The first cohort of Ukrainian pilots to receive training from the Royal Air Force are now learning to fly F-16 fighter jets, having completed a basic programme of training in the UK. 

The RAF began delivering flying and English language training in August as part of the UK contribution to the international Air Capability Coalition for Ukraine, which will see allies and partners working together to bolster Ukraine’s air capabilities.

The group was formed of six experienced Ukrainian combat fighter pilots who received aviation-specific English language training to increase their ability to engage with coalition training and support.

A further ten Ukrainian trainee pilots took part in the language training but remain in the UK to continue with practical elementary flight training, as well as important skills such as aviation medicine and centrifuge training.

“Combined with training from the world-leading RAF, this is a significant step forward from Ukraine’s current Soviet-era capabilities."

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said, “I am proud of the support the Royal Air Force is providing to the next generation of Ukraine’s combat air pilots and ground crew, who will be the first line of defence in protecting Ukraine’s skies. The UK has been instrumental in building Ukraine’s air defences since Putin launched his full-scale invasion, providing hundreds of missiles and munitions, as well as radar and weapons systems.

Grant Shapps continued: "While Ukraine was highly vulnerable to attack from Russian aircraft, drones, and missiles in the early months of the invasion – with support from the UK and our allies, its Armed Forces are now able to intercept and destroy the overwhelming majority of incoming ordinance – protecting their civilian population and vital infrastructure.

Together we’re now going further by ensuring Ukraine has a credible air force in the future, formed around the highly capable fourth-generation F-16 fighter jet."

The programme is designed to give trainee pilots the skills required to advance to the next phase of training on fighter jets with partner nations and to bring future Ukrainian pilots closer to a NATO standard approach to flying.

These young students are highly motivated and very capable. It is a privilege to be part of the training programme for Ukraine.”

RAF Aviators begin Protector Technician course

RAF Aviators begin Protector Technician course
Aviators from 31 Squadron have commenced their Protector RG Mk 1 Technician training at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. Desert Horizons facility in California, USA.

This is the second Protector Technician course for 31 Squadron personnel. It is run over 14 weeks and comprises academic and practical activity, taking Mechanical, Avionics and Weapons NCO technicians into a single technician trade.

This ensures they can maintain the innovative Protector RG Mk 1 Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS). On completion of their training, they'll become a vital part of Protector UK testing and evaluation, as part of the growing 31 Squadron – the first Protector squadron.

Squadron Leader Douglas, Senior Engineering Officer, 31 Squadron commented: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the team to develop through training with our partners in General Atomics. These cross-skilled technicians are at the spearhead of technical professions in the RAF. They will be integral to the introduction of a game-changing RPAS capability to UK Defence.”   

RAF Aviators begin Protector Technician course
Equipped with a suite of advanced equipment and precision strike weapons, Protector will provide critical armed surveillance capability and will be able to deploy against potential adversaries around the globe. The aircraft will also be able to fly in busy unsegregated airspace thanks to ‘detect and avoid’ technology with a potential endurance of over 30 hours.

The UK is investing in 16 Protector RG Mk 1 for the RAF. Capable of operating anywhere in the world, RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire will be the home of the Force, the site of launch and recovery to support domestic training, and command and control for overseas operations.

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Secretary of State for Defence visits RAF Valley

The Secretary of State for Defence visited RAF Valley recently to see the results of £775 million invested in state-of-the-art equipment to train the next generation of pilots.
The Secretary of State for Defence visited RAF Valley recently to see the results of £775 million invested in state-of-the-art equipment to train the next generation of pilots.  The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP met flying instructors, student pilots and Engineers from BAE, Babcock and Ascent, and as a keen pilot himself also flew the Hawk T2 simulator on a low-level flight.

“The sobering events taking place 1500 miles to the east of us, underscore the importance of RAF Valley’s work to both UK Defence and to our NATO Allies."

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said, "There is a real sense of purpose about this place, it is buzzing with activity and one quickly gains a sense that RAF Valley is fully connected to the front-line and committed to meeting future operational needs, in the form of producing first class, front-line fighter pilots of the highest quality, in the required quantity, and getting them where they are needed in a timely manner.

The new investments at Valley totalling £775 million - that are being directed into engineering support for Hawk and the new Texan training facility, will strengthen this endeavour. They also underline MoD and Government commitment to jobs and skills in North Wales; guaranteeing existing jobs and nurturing the next generation of Engineering apprentices - of which a great many are locally recruited.”

The Defence Secretary was visiting RAF Valley as part of a wider visit to North Wales. He was met by the RAF Head of Flying Training - Air Commodore Sharrocks, and the Station Commander RAF Valley - Group Captain Hoare.

The Secretary of State was keen to witness how the RAF is training the next generation of fast jet pilots and also to assess for himself the impact of recent investment in flying training and the efforts to increase the throughput of pilots to the trained strength in a timely manner.

Two new-production Dassault 900LX aircraft, known as Envoy IV CC Mk1 in RAF service, were purchased to replace the BAe146 which went out of service in March 2022. The primary role of the Envoy is Command Support Air Transport (CSAT), providing assured, secure, timely and discreet Air Transport of high priority military personnel and small items of mission critical freight to, from and within operational areas.  The Envoy aircraft transport key military and diplomatic personnel around the world quicker and more efficiently than before. They can fly further, faster, and more sustainably than the aircraft they have replaced. This ability will strengthen diplomatic and economic ties, which will in turn increase regional and national stability. It also facilitates regular and timely global engagement in-line with the UKs International Defence Engagement Strategy.
Envoy IV CC Mk1

The Envoy name reflects the role of the aircraft in defence diplomacy and relationship building and is a nod to previous Envoy aircraft in RAF service. The original Envoy aircraft in RAF service was the Airspeed Envoy, first flown in 1934. It was a twin-engine light transport aircraft, used by the RAF across Marks I, II (as the Oxford) and III, before and during World War 2 in the communications role; one of which served with the ‘Kings Flight’, the precursor to today’s No 32 (The Royal) Squadron.

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23 February, 2024

RAF Poseidon aircraft conducts training in Iceland

A Poseidon P8 Maritime Patrol Aircraft based at RAF Lossiemouth has conducted training with the United States Navy and the Icelandic Coast Guard flying from Keflavik Iceland.

The Poseidon from 120 Squadron, a part of the RAF Poseidon Force, conducted training as part of Exercise Icelandic Falcon.  Also taking part was a second P8 flown by the US Navy’s Patrol Squadron 9 (VP-9), the “Golden Eagles”. This squadron is based at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington on the US west coast.  

The RAF objective of the exercise was to continue the development of overseas training by the Poseidon Force as they approach Full Operating Capability. The deployment was also part of the Force’s Agile Combat Employment Capability development. This was demonstrated by the aircraft deploying with 13 aircrew to conduct the sorties and eight ground engineers to maintain and prepare the aircraft.

Another element of the exercise was to conduct cooperative Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) training with the US Navy who were flying a second Poseidon. The Poseidon sorties were controlled from the Icelandic Coast Guard-operated Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) at Keflavik. This CRC is integrated into the wider NATO Air defence system.

“Ex Icelandic Falcon is a high-value training event providing the CXX Squadron crew the opportunity to work closely with our Allies in the North Atlantic theatre.  

Squadron Leader ‘Barbs’ Barber, RAF Detachment Commander said: "We were excellently hosted by the Icelandic Coast Guard and worked closely with the US Navy to conduct Anti-Submarine Warfare training missions to improve our interoperability and ability to operate in cold climates.  The RAF Poseidon engineering team did a great job in ensuring the jet performed as expected throughout the detachment and the air and ground crews gained a huge amount of experience from this deployment."

20 February, 2024

RAF ground elements work with other nations on Spears of Victory 24

Spears of Victory 24 - the main Saudi run air exercise of the year - draws to a close, and an important element of the exercise for the RAF detachment was to take the opportunity to work with the other nations that also took part. 

Spears of Victory 24, as in previous years, is a multi-national air training exercise that is run by the Royal Saudi Air Force. The facilities include six maintenance hangars capable of accommodating two aircraft each, together with 24 aircraft sun shelters. 

This year, the detachments from France, Greece, Qatar, the UAE and the US, together with the RAF, were allocated one hangar each and six sun shades.  The exercise has therefore created the daily opportunity of interaction between all of the ground elements of the detachments to meet and share how they work.

The ground support element of the RAF deployed personnel included XI (Fighter) Squadron Engineers, the Detachment Logistic Group and other augmentees to provide the full range of the various staff functions that form a Headquarters Forward function.

In addition to the DLG other enablers that deployed on the exercise including personnel from the Tactical Medical Wing, to provide a link into the Saudi medical system if required.  RAF Police also deployed to work with RSAF security personnel.

“The first task for the DLG was to deploy all of the exercise personnel and all of the freight. We have something called a Force Element Table and the Pre Equipment Package, which we bring out for the fighter squadron. On top of that we're supporting the move for all of the kit for elements such as the Tactical Med Wing and 90 Signals Unit detachments."

Flight Lieutenant Boyle
DLG Commander deployed on Spears of Victory 24

“Once we're all set up into the location and the exercise, our role then is to really maintain the supply of equipment needed. Each individual element, including the squadron, might require things. It could be anything from an ink cartridge to an aircraft spare and it's our responsibility to be able to supply that. This will be either from the equipment that we brought with us or we might need to source that back from the UK or other locations, or even source that from within location or the exercise."

Flight Lieutenant Boyle
DLG Commander deployed on Spears of Victory 24 

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16 February, 2024

RAF Typhoons are flying on a large scale Saudi Arabian multinational air exercise

The RAF Typhoons from XI (Fighter) Squadron that are in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia taking part in this year’s Spears of Victory exercise are flying daily sorties as part of a large coalition of nations.

During the exercise, the nations are flying together in mixed groups to conduct air operations against a simulated peer adversary. Each contingent during the missions is practicing conducting defensive counter-air and offensive counter-air operations, as well as air interdiction training against live and simulated threats. 

Colonel Alshehri Saeed, Royal Saudi Air Force Exercise Director said:  “The RSAF and the RAF have a strong alliance that has continued to develop here on Spears of Victory 24, we look forward to working together in the future."

Squadron Leader Hodgkinson, UK Detachment Commander commented:  “The missions that are flown on Spears of Victory 24 are the centrepiece of the exercise. Pilots and aircrew on a multinational exercise are able to build relationships through shared experiences."

In addition to the RAF Typhoons taking part, the Royal Saudi Air Force are flying their Typhoons, Tornados and F-15s. F-16s are taking part from, Greece, and the UAE. The Saudi F-15s have been joined by others from Qatar, with the French Air and Space Force detachment contributing Rafales. The Pakistan Air Force are flying their JF-17s. The Royal Air Force of Oman IS also flying Typhoons. The US contribution this year has been to allocate KC 135 sorties to add to the Air to Air Refuelling capability. In total, over 60 aircraft are taking part in the exercise this year.

Flight Lieutenant ‘Boz’,  RAF Typhoon pilot on the exercise told us: “Whilst on Spears of Victory, a number of us will take part as the Mission commander, Deputy Mission commander, or a Package Lead.

“During one sortie I was the Air to Air package lead.  What that means is whilst I am leading a formation of Typhoons, I'm also feeding into the bigger picture and in charge of other assets within the area of operations.  With this being a network-enabled exercise I not only have the situational awareness of my own formation, but also what other call signs are doing and that is a critical element of modern warfighting."

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14 February, 2024

Operating from Saudi Arabia for large scale multinational air exercise brings challenges for UK's Royal Air Force

The RAF Coningsby-based Engineers currently taking part in this year’s Spears of Victory exercise that is being held at the King Abdulaziz Air Base in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have been successfully ensuring the deployed Typhoons are ready to fly.

The Engineers are mainly from XI (Fighter) Squadron and have set up a forward deployed facility at the Saudi Air Warfare Centre. Key to the Engineers' work is the small Ground Support System support team. This system captures data from the jet during the flight, and once the sortie is over the GSS team download the data to transfer it to a closed computer network. 

This network allows the Engineers to access the data and informs them of any issues that have occurred during the flight.

Sergeant Shaw, Rectification Controller said:  “The GSS system is critical for our work here, it is a bit like when you take your car to a garage and the mechanic plugs a computer into your car to find the fault, but that is a simplification it does so much more. 

The data from the GSS system gives us a detailed understanding of the jet and how it is performing.  This is the big difference between a modern jet such as the Typhoon and a legacy jet such as the Tornado that I first worked on. We are still the hands on engineers who have to carry out the maintenance and fix the jets, but it is the system that points us towards the issue”.

08 February, 2024

RAF Globemaster delivers Army attack helicopters to the Arctic

A Royal Air Force C-17 Globemaster recently delivered Army Air Corps Apache helicopters to Royal Norwegian Air Force Base Bardufoss.

Joint Helicopter Command personnel were hopeful that they could successfully train and complete environmental qualifications in the Arctic Winter and to learn how to live and operate in one of the world’s most hostile environments where temperatures can fall to -30°C.

The survival and operational training ensure that UK military personnel can operate globally to protect the UK’s interests, particularly alongside NATO and partner Nations. Cooperation and interoperability enable the projection of lethal force and also an ability to sustain deployments.

Once arctic training is complete, the Joint Helicopter Force’s Apache will be staying on in Norway to take part in another exercise involving 20,000 personnel from 14 countries.

Royal Air Force Typhoons arrive in Saudi Arabia for large scale multinational air exercise

Flying high ready for action.
RAF Coningsby based Typhoons from XI (Fighter) Squadron have arrived in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to join this year’s Spears of Victory exercise being held at the King Abdulaziz Air Base. 

Personnel from across the RAF have deployed on this large scale, Saudi hosted multinational air warfare training exercise. The RAF are joining participants from several branches of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s military, as well as contingents from Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, France, Greece, Pakistan, and the US.

Squadron Leader Hodgkinson, UK Detachment Commander said:  “Spears of Victory 24 is an extremely important training opportunity for our force enablers to work alongside strategic partners in the region to demonstrate the Combat Air capacity of our highly trained pilots and engineers in the Typhoon Force. Now, as much as never before, we strive for excellence in air dominance – collaborating with allies that have come together in a demonstration of their commitment to stability in the Broader Middle East."

In addition to the RAF Typhoons taking part in this year’s exercise, the Royal Saudi Air Force will be flying their Typhoons, Tornados and F-15s.  F-16s are taking part from Bahrain, Greece, and the UAE.  The Saudi F-15s will be joined by others from Qatar.  The French Air and Space detachment will be contributing Rafales, and the Pakistan Air Force will be flying their JF-17s. The Royal Air Force of Oman will also be flying Typhoons.

An F16 arrives from the UAE

Hodgkinson adds: "The welcome at King Abdulaziz Air Base and the support in country has been fantastic and the facilities here will allow us to really make the most of this opportunity. We look forward to a busy deployment, operating at a high tempo alongside our international colleagues; I am confident the whole detachment will learn a great deal from the Exercise."

The United States Detachment is not flying this year, but instead has committed a mixed unit of National Guardsmen to provide a range of ground support activities, including Fire Fighters Security, and logisticians to support the exercise.

13 December, 2023

MOD signs infrastructure contracts at RAF Waddington – the new home of the Red Arrows

The MoD has signed contracts to provide new and refurbished infrastructure for the Red Arrows at their new home of RAF Waddington.

These contracts, signed with construction company Galliford Try, also include work to build or refurbish facilities at three other RAF stations. The Royal Air Force Aerobatics Team (RAFAT), better known as the Red Arrows, moved to RAF Waddington in October last year. New facilities are now required for the team and their distinctive red Hawk fast jets.

The project is part of the MOD’s wider Defence Estate Optimisation (DEO) Portfolio, which is investing £5.1bn in the infrastructure needed by our service people through construction activity, unit and personnel moves, and the release of sites that are no longer suited to the needs of our modern military.

Air Officer Airbases, Air Commodore Portlock welcomed senior leaders from DEO, Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) and representatives from Galliford Try to RAF Waddington. They signed four contracts to deliver a project which spans RAF Leeming, RAF Saxton Wold, both RAF Boulmer sites and RAF Waddington.

Speaking at the signing, Air Commodore Portlock said:  "This significant milestone marks an exciting transition into the much-awaited design and build phase of the project. Providing this essential infrastructure will enable the RAF to make best use of its estate, whilst also delivering our capabilities which are critical to defence."

Earlier this year, multiple contractors from the construction industry were awarded packages of work across the DEO Portfolio in a landmark move to speed up project delivery. The move will also provide a more collaborative way of working, and a consistent approach to sustainable building practices.

06 December, 2023

RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint has supported the United States Navy's Exercise Resolute Hunter.

For the first time a RAF RC-135 Rivet Joint has supported the United States Navy’s major 3-week air exercise, known as Exercise Resolute Hunter.

The aircraft flown by 51 Squadron at RAF Waddington supported the annual exercise in Nevada. Previously, crews from 51 Squadron have flown in US Rivet Joint aircraft on the exercise, but this is the first time the Squadron has sent one of its own aircraft.

The exercise was hosted by the Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Weapons Centre at Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada, USA. The RAF’s electronic surveillance aircraft worked with MH-60s, MQ-8C, P-8A, E-3G, RQ-4, U-2S, and ground elements on training areas over land and over the Pacific Ocean.

After a short stop at Offutt Air Force Base (AFB), the home of 51 Squadron’s RJ partners the Fightin’ 55th, the aircraft crew met the rest of UK Rivet Joint enterprise at Fallon, which consisted of 51 Squadron, 1 ISR Wing, and 90 Signals Unit.

Fallon, and its surrounding rugged and mountainous terrain, is home to the United States Navy’s premier aviation range. It includes 13,000+ square miles of airspace, restricted areas and ranges. It is also home to several Navy Weapons Schools including the most famous – the Strike Fighter Weapons School, or, Top Gun.

The exercise aimed to refine the crew’s Find, Fix, Track, Target, Engage and Assess skills and also provides an opportunity for 51 Squadron to reciprocate the co-crewing sorties that the USAF’s 55th Wing provide.

The exercise gave the squadron the opportunity to switch from its usual operational taskings to consider other environments, threats, and aircraft. This ensures that they retain the skills required to undertake a wide variety of missions in support of the UK’s intelligence requirements. 

Wing Commander Keith Bissett, Leader of the RAF Detachment said:  “The challenge this exercise provided the crews has been phenomenal. The exercise team worked exceptionally hard to ensure that all of the assets were tested in a contested and congested scenario. Our aircraft has shown an extraordinary ability to support the targeting of the F-18 and EA-18G aircraft. We will continue our co-crewing in future exercises to develop the capabilities of the UK Rivet Joint.”

When it flew its Model 367-80 ‘Dash 80’ prototype for the first time on July 15, 1954, Boeing hoped the aircraft would take the airlines by storm.  Extrapolating technology used on the B-47 and B-52 jet bombers, the aircraft represented a quantum leap directly into the jet age compared to the company’s piston-engined Model 367 Stratocruiser. With its swept wing and fourjet powerplant, carried in discrete underwing nacelles, the Dash 80 was the most modern commercial transport available.

RC-135W Rivet Joint is a dedicated electronic surveillance aircraft that can be employed in all theatres on strategic and tactical missions. Its sensors ‘soak up’ electronic emissions from communications, radar and other systems.  RC-135W Rivet Joint employs multidiscipline Weapons System Officer (WSO) and Weapons System Operator (WSOp) specialists whose mission is to survey elements of the electromagnetic spectrum in order to derive intelligence for commanders.

Yet the airlines were left unimpressed and it was the US Air Force, realising it needed a jet tanker to support its jet bombers, that saw the Dash 80 into production.  In September 1955 it ordered its first KC-135A Stratotanker, Boeing modifying the Dash 80 to trial a ‘flying boom’ refuelling system.  The Stratotanker entered service on June 28, 1957 and Boeing continued development along this military line under the company designation Model 717.

The airlines had been unimpressed by the Dash 80’s cabin width, which was too narrow for six-abreast seating, and Boeing therefore returned to the Dash 80 concept, widening the cabin and developing a series of successful airliners as the Model 707.

Boeing built 732 KC-135s in different variants, many of them ultimately re-engined with the modern CFM56 turbofan, known as the F108 in military service.  These aircraft are designated KC-135R.  There was also a line of C-135 transports, EC-135 command posts, RC-135 intelligence gatherers and a host of other variants, with the KC and RC remaining in widespread service.

Developed under Boeing’s Model 739 series, the first of a long line of RC-135 variants was ordered in 1962.  This photographic reconnaissance RC-135A entered service during the mid-1960s, followed by the first of the electronic intelligence gatherers, the RC-135B.  The precedent for modifying KC airframes to RC standard was set in 1972, with the conversion of three KC-135As as RC-135Ds for the Rivet Brass mission.  All subsequent RC variants were produced by conversion/upgrade, mostly from C, KC and RC standards, culminating in the RC-135V and RC-135W, operated under the Rivet Joint codename that has become internationally, and officially recognised in USAF parlance, as the type’s name.

In June 2011, 51 Sqn flew the final BAe Nimrod R.Mk 1 sortie of its 37-year association with the type. Plans were under way for the aircraft’s replacement under a project known as Airseeker, which had begun the previous March.  It envisaged the acquisition of three RC-135W Rivet Joint aircraft for delivery from 2013.  The machines were to be converted from USAF KC-135R airframes and L-3 Communications in Greenville, Texas was chosen to perform the work as the USAF’s experienced Rivet Joint contractor.  The work began in March 2011.

On November 12, 2013, No. 51 Sqn took delivery of the UK’s first Rivet Joint, operating its maiden operational sortie on May 23, 2014.  The second aircraft arrived in August 2015 and the third on June 8, 2017.  For the purposes of sensor and system upgrades, the trio are considered an extension of the USAF Rivet Joint fleet, ensuring they remain at the cutting edge of capability.

Rivet Joint has been deployed extensively for Operation Shader and on other operational taskings.  It had been formally named Airseeker, but is almost universally known in service as the RC-135W Rivet Joint.