Tuesday, February 2, 2016

UKMFTS announcement and what comes next

Finally we have the announcement for the renewal of the fixed wing training fleets and of the whole training pipeline and system, which will see all passages of training moving under UK Military Flight Training System mechanisms.

The announcement carefully avoids mentioning the expected transfer of Basic Training from RAF Linton-on-Ouse to RAF Valley. It looks pretty likely to me that Linton will close as a consequence, but there seems to be no hurry in mentioning the possibility.

The SDSR 2015 factsheet promises to expand the training fleet to enable the training of enough crews for running the fleets of aircraft that are promised for the future. Some evidence of this is present in today's announcement, as it provides a considerably higher number of military and civilian instructors than was expected earlier.
There will now be 71 military instructors, rather than 64, and 62 civilian instructors, up from 34. 

Pre SDSR 2015 numbers of the UKMFTS Fixed Wing plan

Unfortunately, though, the number of aircraft is completely unchanged, and the three new fleets will still be tiny: 

Just 23 Grob G120TP – to be known as “Prefect” once in service – will replace the Grob G115 Tutors.
Just 10 T-6C Texan will replace the Short Tucano T1s, while just 5 Embraer Phenom 100 will replace the existing Beechcraft King Air 200s.

The numbers of UKMFTS Fixed Wing as announced 2 february 2016

For now at least, this means no increase at all from pre-SDSR expectations, despite the considerably larger RAF promised by the SDSR. Even with the expected increase in the use of simulation, with large reductions to actual flying hours required for training, it is questionable whether these small numbers can suffice.
They will also continue to make it hard / impossible to train foreign students, something the NAO already warned about.

The MOD is providing, as always, zero details about what happens next. However, the RAF is understood to be planning for a new "Military Flying Training School" in RAF Valley, which is expected to, effectively, absorn the current No 4 and No 1 FTSs.

The tiny fleets ahead suggests that the number of squadrons will drop. 208 Sqn, flying Hawk T1, is already planning and executing its sundown phase, connected with the progressive passage to a T2-only training pipeline (even while the Hawk T1 continues to equip 100 Sqn RAF, Red Arrows and 736 NAS).

72(R) Sqn might or might not carry on. It might move to RAF Valley and re-equip with the Texan, or it might disband, replaced by a different squadron. Perhaps 208 itself.

Elementary Flying Training squadrons might also become fewer. Currently, the force includs:

-          16(R) Squadron – RAF Wittering: one of two Squadrons providing elementary flying training to future Royal Air Force pilots, including basic airmanship, navigation and aircraft handling skills. Upon completion, successful pilots are then streamed into advanced training programmes; fast jet, multi-engine or rotary wing.
-          57(R) Squadron – RAF Cranwell: one of two Squadrons providing elementary flying training to future Royal Air Force pilots, including basic airmanship, navigation and aircraft handling skills. Upon completion, successful pilots are then streamed into advanced training programmes; fast jet, multi-engine or rotary wing.
-          115 (R) Squadron – RAF Wittering: is responsible for the training of new Qualified Flying instructors, and the provision of refresher training for previously qualified instructor.

Moving to a 2 sqn structure would not be surprising.

Meanwhile, there are reports that 100 Sqn RAF will up its game by swapping the Hawk T1 for the Typhoon, to form a more capable "Red Air" squadron to support training. We don't have any official confirmation yet, nor any detail of how it will be done.
It has been suggested to me that 100 Sqn might end up having only crews, sent to Coningsby to pick up aircraft only when needed.
On the other hand, after the SDSR, the Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford said that they had a plan to try and obtain "a third fast jet squadron" over and above the 2 promised by the SDSR, to reach a total of 10. Putting Typhoon in 100 Sqn could achieve that aim.
It'll be one to watch, and it clearly depends on how many Typhoon tranche 1 stay in service, and for how long.

On the helicopter front, the 8 Bell 212 helicopters used in support to training have a 2017 Out of Service Date.
It is now being reported that the MOD is looking to out-source the helicopter support for the Brunei garrison (7 Flight AAC), which uses Bell 212s.
The Bell is also used by 25 Flight in Kenya (BATUK) and is also associated to use in Belize, where the flight was based until after the SDSR 2010. With Belize seeing a return of british troops for training, there is probably scope for a single helicopter type to replace the 212 in all three locations, but for now it seems that the initiative is limited to Brunei. 

Within the next few months, the renewal of the Rotary Wing training fleets and pipeline is also expected to progress. Further announcements can thus be expected.



  1. We all knew the RAF wasn't going to see the current training fleet replaced like for like, but even so i can't quite believe the Prefect (rubbish name) and the Texan will be brought into service in such minuscule numbers.

    It's perplexing to see such reductions and possible squadron amalgamations given the small but substantial growth the SDSR has recently committed to, with an across the board increase in fleets and capabilities and the fast-jet fleet in particular going to grow from a long-term plan of 7-8 squadrons to 9-10. If anything we should as you say be seeing some small growth in the training pipeline.

    Any word at all on rear crew training? I presume by the silence on this that the RAF requirements will continue to be met by sharing the FAA's set-up? Considering the recent announcements on MPA, a sustained ISTAR capability and larger than expected transport fleet this gap seems pretty glaring.

    The whole Typhoon, 100 squadron thing is a little confusing. I originally read it simply as 1 of the planned 7 squadrons being badged as 100 and becoming aerial combat specialists in the way some of the others will focus on other capabilities like anti-tank, suppression of enemy air defence, long-range strike, maritime cooperation etc.

    Are you suggesting that 100 squadron could actually be an 8th Typhoon unit (plus 2 F35 for 10), with or without actual aircraft allocated?

    1. Yes, 100 Sqn MIGHT be an 8th Typhoon squadron, if it can be managed. We'll only know as things develop.

      Regarding Rear Crew, there supposedly is (was?) a plan to move from the current Stage 1 (750 NAS with Royal Navy observes and some RAF) to a Stage 2 rear crew pipeline better addressing the wider needs of the services. No details at this point to say how this is going.

  2. Lord help us.

    From over 150 Tucano once when the Royal Air Force was somebody to 10 Texan.

    Are these new Grobs for 16R 57R and 115R in the EFTS only or are they covering the wider UAS as well? If so we are well and truly screwed as how will 23 Grob cover the wider UAS squadrons too?

    1. The days of so many Tucano are long gone. Last year there were 28 in the Forward and 11 in the Sustainment fleet.

      10, however, do seem to push it down too low, yes.

      As for the Prefect, it does not covers the UAS. UAS squadrons remain outside of UKMFTS and have been put under the command of the reformed No 6 FTS. They will continue to use the Tutor for the time being.

      Wonder what happens to the AAC and NAS squadrons flying tiny numbers of Tutor for the grading phase, however. Dunno if those vanish, if they stay with Tutor or if they get Prefect. Not clear at all.

    2. Thanks for the latest article Gabriele.

      A relief in the respect of the UAS only then.
      Hoping this is a preliminary order then, as pointed out given the modest improvements to the RAF 10 Texan is ludicrous. 23 Grob is acceptable given just the 3 units.

      The fight now is to save AAC Middle Wallop. Linton clearly is doomed.

      Interesting re 100 Squadron report. It would surprise me as only the US can really afford to have aggressor units of front line aircraft. Could they use 736NAS as the sole aggressor unit and use 100 manpower as a means of getting one of the extra Typhoon squadrons up and running while maintaining Tornado? The extra Typhoon units were always assumed to be dependent on GR4 rundown. In effect they would be cutting 1 aggressor unit and saving need for replacing Hawks in 100 Squadron with additional T2, though more must be acquired eventually for the Reds.

      As for Hawk, any rumour of additional T2 orders?

      I'd imagine that 703NAS and 674AAC disappear sadly, given just the 23 aircraft. We shall settle for remaining on the existing Tutor.

    3. We'll see, it really is hard to say. Any guess could be right or wrong.

      As for who will use Zephyr, the talk is the special forces, and until it stays a large yet light and hand-launched device, i guess it is more than doable. Real challenge now is developing capable payloads for it, that make good use of the very few kq available.

    4. Yes I was aware of that much. What part of uksf enabling assets is what interests me. I can only guess 18.

  3. Also, fascinated as to who will operate the Zephyr?

  4. Doesn't Typhoon cost many times per hour to operate and a lot noisier than the Hawk? Also isn't it a bit "overkill" for a display team? Clive F

  5. They are banking on high availability of airframes (running each airframe (Texan II) for at least 6 sorties per day, 5 days a week at 80% utilisation per airframe or put it another way - 8 frames per day on the flight line at 0800 ready to go for 6 sorties. Maintenance will be interesting. What margin has been built in to cater for sortie failure (student not aircraft)? Has consideration been taken into account of all the foreign and Commonwealth students that will be using the system?

    This is the problem with handing over the running of a training system to a private venture, the risk margin becomes a lot tighter. There seems to be no flexibility in the training system to deal with surge, airframe incident (grounding of fleet due to technical issue) and an over reliance in the use of simulators.
    Anonymous Feb 4 @1417L - 100 Sqn would utilise Typhoon T1 and T2 in smaller numbers and flex a virtual fleet (in effect losing their organic aircraft but maintaining their pilots). This would keep Sqn number up and work all the aircraft in the fleet (full utilisation).
    RAFAT would continue to use the Hawk but update with T2 (Not a lot of hours left in the T1 and maintenance costs are increasing).
    RAFAT, unlike other aerobatic teams are there to display airmanship, the skills of the pilot and ability of the RAF as a whole to deliver excellence through training - on a platform that is used to train pilots that get streamed "Fast Jet". The platform is secondary.


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