New training pushes RAF pilots faster and further

In a move which is pre­dict­ed to rev­o­lu­tionise RAF fly­ing train­ing, 4 (Reserve) Squadron, based at RAF Val­ley, is gear­ing up for its first stu­dent course in April 2012.

Two RAF Hawk T2 air­craft pic­tured dur­ing a flight over North Wales [Pic­ture: Cor­po­ral Paul Old­field RAF, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Through a com­bi­na­tion of syn­thet­ic train­ing and 28 Hawk T2 air­craft, the train­ing syl­labus which now awaits the first stu­dents is con­sid­ered to be world-lead­ing:

“I’ve been to Aus­tralia and the USA and seen how they train fast jet pilots and in my view we’ve leapfrogged them,” said Squadron Leader Rob Caine, Offi­cer Com­mand­ing Staff Train­ing and Stan­dards.

“This is prin­ci­pal­ly because of the Oper­a­tional Capa­bil­i­ty 2 soft­ware in the jet which turns a very capa­ble dig­i­tal Hawk into a front line air­craft emu­la­tor, both air-to-air and air-to-ground.”

Stu­dents come to the North Wales sta­tion straight from fly­ing the Tucano at RAF Lin­ton-on-Ouse:

“On arrival each stu­dent is giv­en a lap­top and wher­ev­er they go on sta­tion they can plug it in and get what­ev­er they need — brief­in­gs, debriefs, the fly­ing pro­gramme, stu­dent study devices etc,” explained Flight Lieu­tenant Ste­fan Brown, an instruc­tor on 4 (Reserve) Squadron.

Dur­ing six weeks of ground school stu­dents will progress using a vari­ety of train­ing aids, includ­ing a full-motion sim­u­la­tor, and will prac­tise every­thing they can expect to encounter in the air before get­ting air­borne. There­after, four or five flights are under­tak­en with an instruc­tor before the first solo:

“The aim of the syl­labus is to pro­duce a mul­ti-role sin­gle jet pilot and we can take pilots faster and fur­ther than ever before,” explained Sqn Ldr Caine.

“We are now able to train the tac­tics and pro­ce­dures of the front line here, includ­ing intro­duc­tions into the clas­si­fied plan­ning aspects. As a result the stan­dard [of grad­u­at­ing stu­dents] should be high­er in terms of capa­bil­i­ty and readi­ness.”

The advance­ment in capa­bil­i­ties of the new Hawk T2 enables train­ing to be passed down from Oper­a­tional Con­ver­sion Units (OCUs). Accord­ing­ly stu­dents at RAF Val­ley will now receive train­ing on air-air, close air sup­port and oth­er com­bat roles:

“We are down­load­ing from the OCUs some of the train­ing pack­ages they cur­rent­ly under­take. This doesn’t take [fly­ing] hours from the OCUs, it enables them to take their stu­dents fur­ther than ever before and achieve com­bat ready sta­tus ear­li­er.”

Exter­nal­ly, apart from an extend­ed nose, the T2 looks lit­tle dif­fer­ent from its T1 pre­de­ces­sor, but in the cock­pit things are marked­ly dif­fer­ent.

Three, full-colour, mul­ti-func­tion dis­plays sim­i­lar to those used by the Typhoon can be used to dis­play nav­i­ga­tion, weapon and sys­tems infor­ma­tion, and the aircraft’s head-up dis­play has been updat­ed to use sym­bols and data used in cur­rent com­bat air­craft.

Oth­er changes include ‘hands-on-throt­tle-and-stick’ con­trols which are ful­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of front line com­bat air­craft types, and twin-mis­sion com­put­ers host­ing sim­u­la­tions of a wide range of sen­sor and weapon sys­tems.

Whilst the air­craft does not car­ry muni­tions-using soft­ware, an instruc­tor is able to repli­cate most of the muni­tions in the RAF inven­to­ry and also pose threats:

“For exam­ple, for elec­tron­ic war­fare train­ing I can input sur­face-to-air mis­sile sites into the soft­ware,” said Sqn Ldr Caine.

“The stu­dent pilot must react using the cor­rect tac­tics and pro­ce­dures to sur­vive.

“We are also going fur­ther than any­one else in the world in train­ing for Joint Strike Fight­er. We’ve cal­cu­lat­ed that we’ll save £200m over 25 years and pro­duce a bet­ter prod­uct at the end.”

Some 30 per cent of the civil­ian ground crew who main­tain the Hawk T2 fleet for Bab­cock Defence Ser­vices in a new pur­pose-built hangar are ex-reg­u­lars:

“The ex-mil­i­tary guys have the broad brush of engi­neer­ing expe­ri­ence which is great val­ue, par­tic­u­lar­ly in devel­op­ing the local work­force,” said Jim Boyd, T2 Oper­a­tions Man­ag­er.

These include Dave Shep­herd, the T2 Depart­ment Man­ag­er who left the RAF as a rig­ger in 1994 hav­ing served at Cottes­more, Finning­ley and in Ger­many:

“I’ve not been to a bet­ter place. We’re work­ing in a phe­nom­e­nal air­craft,” he said.

His views were echoed by anoth­er for­mer RAF reg­u­lar, Bri­an Cham­bers:

“These are def­i­nite­ly the best facil­i­ties I’ve worked in. I nev­er got to work on Typhoon and the T2 is the near­est I can get to it. Com­pared to the T1, the new air­craft is 100 per cent bet­ter. We like the jet.”

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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