UK Military Flying Training System

In this page i want to provide an overview of the Public-Private Partnership that, from 2008, is responsible for delivery of all flying training to the three services. It is not a shiny argument about fighter bombers or super-ships that so easily makes the headlines, yet it is, obviously, one of the most important parts of the complex machine that the Armed Forces are. Besides, as several of the machines used for flying training are being replaced (Jetstram, Dominie), put in service (Hawk 128 T2) or soon to be procured (Tucano T1 replacement above all), this is an interesting time for starting to follow this little known tri-service world. 

UK Military Flight Training System contract

Active: yes
Contract Amount: 635,000,000 GBP
Project Timeframe: 25 years
Announcement Date: 06/02/2008
Termination Date: 12/31/2033

The initial contract was valued at £635 million and is projected to rise to as much as £6 billion over the life of the programme and was awarded to Ascent in 2008.
The contract made Ascent responsible for running the UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS) programme, providing comprehensive training to all new UK military aircrew across the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force and the Army Air Corps. Ascent is a Public Private Partnership (PPP) approach combining the Joint Venture Lockheed Martin (50%) -  Babcock (50%), The Directorate of Flying Training for No 22 (Training) Group and the UKMFTS IPT (Integrated Project Team) from the MoD.

Under UKMFTS, the MoD maintains the training output requirements and standards whilst providing elements such as airfields, fuel and instructors. Ascent will design the overall system and deliver the training capability including delivering a proven Training Management Information System and the procurement of aircraft platforms and simulators. Ascent is responsible for mainteinance and platform support of most machines as well (for example it is wholly responsible for the availability for service of the Hawk T2).  

Ascent took over the role on an incremental basis to ensure minimal disruption to the training programme. Additional contracts detailing future services and purchases have and will be announced as the programme progresses. The training covers the period following Aircrew Selection up to the point the students leave UKMFTS ready to fly in their operational aircraft.
Ascent’s selection as UKMFTS Training System Partner in November 2006 followed a competition to select a partner who would harness the collective skills of the MoD and industry. Ascent will work with the MoD over the life of the programme to design, deliver and manage ground and flying training at multiple locations across the UK. 

Fixed Wing Training Fleet
The UK has launched the process to acquire the remaining three major elements of its tri-service Military Flying Training System infrastructure, with expressions of interest being sought from potential bidders.

Issued by the Ministry of Defence's training system partner, Lockheed Martin/VT joint venture Ascent Flight Training, the new requests seek solutions for the programme's fixed-wing and rear-crew elements, each for periods of up to 25 years.

Likely to be awarded to a single contractor, but possibly divided into component parts, the fixed-wing aircraft service provision requests "fully supported and maintained aircraft that will be used to provide elementary, basic and multi-engine pilot training for the UK armed forces incorporating all aircrew disciplines", the MoD says. Running for this contract are a team led by BAE Systems, a Cobham/CAE/EADS Cassidian consortium, and Israel's Elbit Systems.

The process will deliver replacements for types including the Royal Air Force's Shorts Tucano turboprops and Hawker Siddeley Dominie rear crew trainers, with the selected types to be used at several locations around the UK. The basic trainer requirement is likely to draw offers using types including Beechcraft's export-standard T-6C and the Pilatus PC-21.
The PC-21 might replace the Tucano T1 by 2015

Beechcraft T-6C is another strong contender for Tucano replacement in the RAF.

Describing its design as a "low-risk and cost-effective" solution, Beechcraft says a T-6C fleet would be capable of delivering 18,000 flight hours or 25 years of operation before requiring depot-level maintenance.

The MoD says its procurement strategy for the more than £400 million ($599 million) fixed-wing deal is still being finalised, but that "it is likely that the contract/s will require supplier-sourced funding through a private finance initiative arrangement".

Prospective bidders are also being sought to deliver rear-crew training services from a single UK location under a deal worth between £100 million and £400 million. "Either Ascent or the rear-crew aircraft service provider may be responsible for the selection of the aircraft," the MoD says, with its strategy to be confirmed in a formal request for proposals.

Ascent collected expressions of interest for all three project elements by 12 April 2011, and hosted an industry event for interested parties in early May. The company will shortlist potential suppliers after reviewing their responses to a pre-qualification questionnaire.

In particular, Ascent has launched the competition for the Fixed Wing (FW) Aircraft Service Provision (ASP) elements for Elementary, Basic and Multi-Engine Pilot Training. This suggests that the Grob 115E Tutor, the Tucano T1 and even the recently-acquired (2004) Beechcraft P200 multi-engine trainer will all be replaced.     
Major parts of the MFTS deal already under contract include a non-competitive contract with BAE Systems to supply the Hawk 128/T2 advanced jet trainer, and an agreement with FR Aviation to provide observer instruction for the Royal Navy using Beechcraft King Air 350ERs.

Rotary Wing Training Fleet

The UK's requirement to modernise its training system for military helicopter crews has drawninitial bids from two contenders.

Responses to a request for proposals issued by Lockheed Martin/Babcock joint venture Ascent Flight Training were received by a 14 January 2011 deadline from AgustaWestland and a new consortium, dubbed Alphar. The latter is formed of Eurocopter, training device supplier CAE and FB Heliservices (FBH), which already runs the UK's current tri-service Defence Helicopter Flying School.

Issued by Ascent late last year, the rotary-wing service provision RFP sought draft responses from industry on factors including the total number of flight hours and simulators required, plus related infrastructure. They were also required to outline their plans to fund the system under a private finance initiative model.
The requirement encompasses the UK military tri-services and all aircrew disciplines, and the MoD describes this element as worth more than £400 million.

Neither AgustaWestland nor Eurocopter have so far disclosed to the public any detail of their bids.

A decision is expected in late 2011 or early 2012, along with a selection on the remaining fixed-wing elements of the Military Flying Training System programme. 

New equipment should come into use from around 2015, says Ascent, the Ministry of Defence's training system partner for the deal.

An FR Aviation/Bristow Helicopters company, FBH provides rotary-wing training services for the British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy using single-engined Eurocopter AS350s and Bell Helicopter 412 twins (Squirrel HT1 and Griffin HT1 respectively).

Its activities are mainly performed from RAF Shawbury in Shropshire, but also take place at RAF Valley on Anglesey in north Wales and at the School of Army Aviation at Middle Wallop, Hampshire.

The Current Trainers  

Here i take a "photo" of the current (20 May 2011) situation of the training fleets of the three services. 

Viking T1 glider

The Grob G103A Twin II Acro, known by the RAF as the Viking T1, is used by the Air Cadet Organisation to give basic gliding training to air cadets. The aircraft is currently used by 11 Volunteer Gliding Squadrons located at various sites around the UK. Their role is to train air cadets to a standard that will allow them to fly solo. Courses available to the air cadets are the gliding induction course, the gliding scholarship course and the advanced gliding training course. The aircraft is again also used at the Air Cadet Central Gliding School, at Syerston, where it is used in the training of the VGS instructors.

The Viking T1 is a high performance sailplane, which can be winch-launched or aero-towed. The aircraft is fitted with a non-retractable tandem undercarriage and upper surface airbrakes. It has tandem seating for a crew of two and is constructed using the latest techniques in industrial glass-reinforced plastic for light weight and strength. The Viking is used for basic training, high-performance flying and simple aerobatic flying and is a cost-effective, modern glider, ideally suited to its training role with the Air Cadet Organisation.

Vigilant T1

The Grob 109B motor glider, known by the RAF as the Vigilant T1, is used by the Air Cadet Organisation to give basic flying and gliding training to air cadets. The aircraft is built in Germany, but it has been modified to meet the RAF’s training requirements by the inclusion of an additional throttle in the cockpit and an increase in the maximum take-off weight. The Vigilant is currently used by 16 Volunteer Gliding Squadrons (VGSs), located at various sites around the UK. Their role is to train air cadets in basic flying techniques and to enable them to reach a standard where they are able to fly solo. Courses available to the air cadets are the gliding induction course, the gliding scholarship course and the advanced gliding training course. The Vigilant T1 aircraft is also used at the Air Cadet Central Gliding School, at Syerston, in Nottinghamshire, where it is used to train the VGS instructors.

The aircraft is powered by a Grob 2500E1 horizontally opposed, four-cylinder, air-cooled engine, which provides a direct drive to a Hoffman Ho- V62 R/L160BT variable-pitch, two-bladed propeller. The conventional landing gear, which is non-retractable, comprises two main wheels with fairings, and a tailwheel, which is steered through the rudder pedals. A retrofitted throttle is provided for use by the left-hand seat, giving the student the familiar military configuration of right-hand stick and left-hand throttle arrangement.

The Vigilant TMk1 is a cost-effective, modern aircraft. Its docile handling characteristics, combined with good fuel economy, make it an excellent training aircraft for cadets and instructors alike.

Grob 115E Tutor T1 

The Grob 115E, known by the RAF as the Tutor, is used for Elementary Flying Training by the 14 University Air Squadrons and 12 Air Experience Flights throughout the UK. It is also used by the Central Flying School and for elementary WSO training at the RAF College Cranwell. All of the Tutors in RAF service are entered on the UK Civil Aircraft Register and are provided by VT Group. It is also used by a Naval Air Service squadron and an Army Air Corps squadron.

The Tutor is constructed mainly from carbon fibre reinforced plastic, which combines high strength with light weight. Like its predecessor, the Bulldog, the Tutor has side-by-side seating but, unlike the Bulldog, the primary flight instruments are on the right-hand side of the cockpit. This allows the student to fly the aircraft from the right-hand seat with a right-hand stick and a left-hand throttle so that future transition to fast-jet aircraft is made easier.

Unpressurised, and powered by a Textron-Lycoming 180hp piston engine driving a Hoffman three-bladed, constant-speed propeller, the Tutor can cruise at 130kts at sea level and climb to 5,000ft in seven minutes. The aircraft has a very clean airframe and has a three-minute inverted- flight time limit, making it ideal for aerobatics where, unlike previous RAF light aircraft, it loses little or no height during a full aerobatic sequence. The aircraft has a very modern instrument and avionics suite, including a Differential Global Positioning System, which, apart from giving excellent navigational information, can also be used to generate a simulated Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach for training use at airfields where ILS ground equipment is not fitted for the runway in use. The Grob 115E allows pilots to fly the aircraft from the right-hand seat with a right-hand stick and a left-hand throttle for easy transition to fast-jet aircraft.

The Tutor is a cost-effective, modern elementary training aircraft. The combination of docile handling characteristics and good performance make it very suitable for its training role.

Lees Avionics hasbeen awarded a contract by Babcock to upgrade 93 Royal Air Force (RAF) Grob 115E training aircraft, also known as the Tutor Fleet. The upgrade included installation of Avidyne TAS600 traffic advisory systems and a Sandel Electronic HSI, for improved situational awareness and collision avoidance. The upgrade programme to improve the safety of the aircraft was launched after two mid-air collisions in 2009 and was completed by December 2010. 

Firefly T67

The Firefly T67 M260, which entered RAF service in 1996, is a two-seat aircraft used at the RAF College Cranwell for training pilots who have completed elementary flying training and have been selected for multi-engine training on the King Air B200. The aircraft are civilian registered and are owned, supplied and maintained by Babcock Defence Services, who provide the aircraft under contract to the RAF. The Firefly is used on a Multi-Engine Lead-In (MELIN) course, which is an integral part of the role of the King Air training squadron, No 45 (R) Squadron. The course gives student pilots an insight into more advanced flying than they encounter on the elementary course and comprises general handling, procedural instrument flying, low-level navigation, formation flying, night flying and an introduction to dual-crew operations.

The Firefly, made in glass fibre by Slingsby Aviation in Yorkshire, is a single piston-engined aircraft with a 260hp Textron-Lycoming engine, which drives a three-blade, constant speed, composite propeller. Its instrumentation and communications equipment allows it to be flown along airways and the aircraft is cleared for instrument flying and night flying. The Firefly is fitted with side-by-side dual controls, a fixed windscreen and a backward-tilting canopy incorporating direct ventilation windows and fresh-air scoops. The unpressurised aircraft is fully aerobatic and can easily maintain height during an aerobatic sequence. The aircraft also has fuel and oil systems capable of sustaining inverted flight.

The Firefly can carry two pilots for over three hours of training. This endurance, coupled with a rapid climb rate of less than 10 minutes to reach 10,000ft, make it an excellent training aircraft.

Tucano T1

The Tucano T1 is a modified version of the Brazilian Embraer EMB-312 Tucano aircraft, and is built under licence by Shorts of Belfast. The Tucano is operated primarily from No 1 Flying Training School, at RAF Linton-on-Ouse, to provide basic fastjet flying training to RAF and RN student pilots, and basic WSO training to all potential RAF WSOs. Student pilots fly around 130 hours during their training course on the Tucano before progressing to the Hawk T1 aircraft at RAF Valley.

The aircraft is powered by an 1150shp Garrett Turboprop engine, has a maximum speed of 300kts (345mph) and can maintain 270kts (310mph) at low level. It can operate at up to 30,000 feet and has an initial climb rate of 4000 feet per minute. The Tucano replaced the Jet Provost in RAF service and its two-seat tandem cockpit makes it an ideal lead-in to the Hawk, which is flown at the next stage of training. The turboprop Tucano was chosen to replace the RAF’s Jet Provosts because of its greater fuel efficiency and lower operating costs.

The aircraft handling is similar to that of a jet aircraft and it is fully aerobatic, thus providing an excellent workhorse for training fast-jet pilots in all aspects of military flying. It is used to develop students in a full range of skills, including general aircraft handling, formation flying and low-level navigation and, due to its comprehensive avionics and ice-protection packages, it can be flown in all types of weather, by day and by night. The Tucano’s all-weather flying capability, plus its excellent endurance, allows a great measure of flexibility in the training role. Should weather conditions be poor at their home base, crews operating from RAF Linton-on- Ouse can fly low-level sorties to locations as far away as Wales or the north of Scotland.

The Tucano has recently undergone a wing and fuselage strengthening programme to overcome aircraft stress problems and will remain as the RAF’s primary fast-jet basic flying-training aircraft until later in the decade. The replacement will be part of the contract for Fixed Wing training as part of the UK MFTS.

Beechcraft King Air B200

The Beech King Air B200, is a twin-engine turboprop monoplane, which first entered RAF service in 2004, replacing the Jetstream T1. It is used as an advanced, multi-engine pilot trainer by No 45(R) Squadron, which is part of No 3 Flying Training School based at RAF Cranwell, in Lincolnshire. Prior to flying the King Air, students who have been streamed to fly multi-engine aircraft at the end of elementary flying training undertake survival training and personal development training to prepare them for the rigours of operational service. They then join No 45(R) Squadron, and receive an additional 30 hours training on the multi-engine lead-in (MELIN) course, flying Firefly 260 aircraft. During the MELIN course, students are taught crew co-operation and procedural flying skills to prepare them for their advanced flying training on the King Air.

The King Air course is split into basic and advanced phases. In the basic phase, students learn essential multi-engine techniques such as general handling, asymmetric flying, emergency handling and radio-aids navigation, and consolidate the multi-crew skills acquired on the MELIN. In the advanced phase, the emphasis shifts towards developing captaincy, crew resource management, and managing the King Air's advanced avionics systems. Students learn advanced skills such as formation flying, low-level flying and airways navigation, and are expected to plan and manage composite missions involving several aircraft.

On completion of the course students are awarded their coveted pilot’s wings, and then undertake conversion to their frontline aircraft type at an Operational Conversion Unit.

A variety of courses are available using the King Air, based mainly on the student’s previous flying experience. This experience can be as little as 100 hours for a student arriving straight from elementary flying training, to a few thousand hours for a qualified pilot transferring to the multi-engine role. In addition to its flying training role, the King Air can be used to carry up to 6 passengers or freight.

The King Air B200 has performed extremely well in its first year of service, and has proved popular with students and instructors alike. Its combination of a well-proven airframe with advanced cockpit and systems make it an ideal training platform for the new generation of multi-engine aircraft entering RAF service.

The B200 is an earlier variant of the King Air 350 on which the Shadow R1 spy plane is based. 5 Shadow R1 have been acquired, and four more 350s are due to replace the Jetstream T2 in the 750 Naval Air Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm this year.

Hawker Siddeley Dominie T1 

The British Aerospace 125 is a twin-engined mid-size corporate jet, with newer variants now marketed as the Hawker 800. It was known as the Hawker Siddeley HS.125 until 1977. In the RAF it was used as a navigation trainer (as the Hawker Siddeley Dominie T1) until January 2011. Operated by 55(R) Squadron, the Dominie T1 has served for more than 45 years.

"The cancellation of the Nimrod MRA4 and a reduction in the number of Tornado GR4s has resulted in the RAF ceasing any further weapons system officer (formerly navigator) training,"  was the RAF justification for this hundredth cut. The cut has “ removed the need to train new sensor operators for the next few years" according to official press releases.

Longer term, a replacement for the Dominie is also to be acquired via the UK Military Flying Training System programme. Potential candidates include the Cessna Citation Mustang being promoted by a BAE-led team, and other platforms being offered by rival contenders Cobham/EADS Cassidian and Elbit Systems.

Operations with six younger 125-700B airframes assigned to the service's 32 (The Royal) Sqn at RAF Northolt continue. These were delivered in 1983-4 and are used in a VIP transport role.

Hawk T1/T1A 

The Hawk first entered service with the RAF in 1976, both as an advanced flying-training aircraft and a weapons-training aircraft. 176 have been ordered by the RAF in the years. The Hawk T1 version is currently used at RAF Valley for fast-jet pilot advanced flying training with No 208(R) Squadron, and at RAF Scampton by the RAF Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows. The T1A is used for weapons and tactical training on No 19(R) Squadron at RAF Valley, and by No 100 Squadron at RAF Leeming for advanced fast-jet weapons systems officer training and operational support- flying. In its weapons and tactical training role the Hawk is used to teach air combat, air-to-air firing, air-to-ground firing and low-flying techniques and operational procedures.

The Hawk is an all-metal, low-wing, tandem seat aircraft of conventional design. The wing has a moderate sweep with 2º dihedral and trailing edge slotted flaps. A one-piece all-moving tailplane is also swept back with 10º dihedral. The fuselage comprises three main parts. The front fuselage accommodates two equipment bays and a pressurised cabin containing two tandem cockpits. The centre fuselage contains the engine, a fuselage fuel tank, a gas turbine starting system and a ram air turbine; the latter providing emergency hydraulic power should the two normal hydraulic systems fail. The rear fuselage houses the jet pipe bay and an airbrake hinged to its under surface.

The Hawk is powered by a Rolls- Royce Turbomeca Adour 151 turbofan engine, which is an un-reheated version of the engine powering the Jaguar GR3 aircraft.

While the Hawk T1 is used solely in the advanced flying-training role, the Hawk T1A (of which 89 have been realized converting earlier T1s) is equipped to an operational standard and is capable of undertaking a number of war roles. The T1A has two under-wing pylons cleared to carry Sidewinder AIM-9L air-to-air missiles, and can carry a 30mm Aden cannon in a pod underneath the fuselage centre-line. The cannon can be fired at the same time as any of the pylon-mounted weapons are selected for release or firing. Aiming facilities for the aircraft’s attack modes are provided by an integrated strike and interception system, while a Vinten video recording system is used to record the weapon sighting.

The Royal Navy acquired a dozen Hawk T1/1As from the RAF, for use in training of ships' gunners and radar operators. They are well known for simulating air attacks on RN ships in training.

Hawk 128 T2 - Advanced Jet Trainer 

The Hawk 128 T2 was ordered on 24 october 2006 under a 450 million pounds deal for 28 airplanes, spares, support and initial training.

The first seven of the 28 Hawk T2 were accepted into service in 2009, and deliveries should have been completed. For now, the Hawk T2 fleet is being used to prepare the RAF instructors that, from late 2011, will start preparing Typhoon pilots. By 2012, around 40 pilots a year will be formed thanks to the Hawk T2, and in future the F35 pilots will also be formed by the T2, which will be the new Advanced Jet Trainer, relieving the earlier Hawks from this role (and allowing cuts in their fleets, undoubtedly).

It is interesting to think about what could happen with the training jet fleet now that the F35 variant chosen is the Carrier one. Will some T-45 Goshawk be inducted into service to help training pilots with the carrier ops? The T-45 Goshawk is a fully carrier-capable aircraft developed from the Hawk 60 for the United States Navy for use in aircraft carrier training.Continuously updated, remains in use in its most modern C variant.

The Hawk T2 is merely a component of the Ascent-delivered Advanced Jet Training element of the UK MFTS contract. The whole system comprises the training system design including Computer Based Training (CBT) / Computer Aided Instruction (CAI), new infrastructure, Ground Based Training Equipment (GBTE), a Training Management Information system (TMIS) and instructional staff all to be located at RAF Valley in North Wales.

The infrastructure includes a new Squadron Headquarters: it is a completely self contained facility that also houses the GBTE. The GBTE comprises of two Full Mission Simulators (FMS), 6 Flight Training Devices (FTD), 10 Desk Top Trainers (DTT) and Mission brief/debrief facilities. Associated with the Squadron HQ is a forward maintenance hangar that will house the Hawk T2 aircraft.

The AJT programme is approaching several major milestones on its way to delivering the first MFTS student course in November 2011. Formal handover of the infrastructure from the prime contractor Babcock, to Ascent was achieved on November 1st 2010. 

The Hangar will house the 28 Hawk T Mk2 aircraft that provide the exciting new training aircraft for the MFTS course. The Squadron building houses19(F) Sqn, the tactical weapons training unit at RAF Valley, along with all of the classroom and synthetic training facilities.

On 16 January 2011 the second major milestone was reached, with the delivery of the first Full Mission Simulator (FMS), six Flight Training Devices (FTD) and ten Desk Top Trainers (DTT). Installation and testing of the whole system is expected to take 6 months, and thus be done by June or July. The DTT allows the student pilot to take his Personal Learning Device (PLD) and dock it with a Hands on Throttle and Stick (HOTAS) control from the Hawk aircraft.  The student pilot is then able to interact with a computerised aircraft model on his PLD, using the HOTAS controls.

The FTD is a part task trainer, produced by Lockheed Martin, which houses two re-hosted mission computers from the T Mk2 aircraft. This system allows the student pilots to practice all of their checks and procedures as well as rehearsing missions in a realistic synthetic environment that covers the majority of UK airspace and airfields.

CAE, based in Montreal Canada, are producing two FMS. These utilise a ‘dome’ visual display with fully immersive projection, together with g cueing systems to provide realistic training for each student pilot against a multitude of other synthetically generated aircraft. In the future these FMS will provide the majority of the training in the student operational scenarios, including simulation of synthetic radar, surface to air missile, air to air missile and decoy systems. 

All of this training will be provided with ground instruction by Ascent Qualified Instructors (QI) and RAF Qualified Flying Instructors (QFI) in the air. All of these milestones present a challenging, exciting and thoroughly rewarding next twelve months.

The MFTS buildings were opened by a VIP ceremony on 4 December 2010. The Squadron building has been named the ‘Moran’ building after Air Chief Marshall Sir Christopher Moran who visited the building on one of his final formal engagements prior to his untimely death in May 2010. His wife, Lady Elizabeth Moran, inaugurated the building.

Rotary Wing Training

Squirrel HT1 

The Squirrel HT1 (Eurocopter AS350 Ecureuil) is used by the Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS) at RAF Shawbury, in Shropshire, for Single Engine Basic Rotary Wing (SEBRW) training with No 660 Squadron and Single Engine Advanced Rotary Wing (SEARW) training with No 705 Squadron. The DHFS selected the Squirrel helicopter, manufactured by Eurocopter, as a replacement for the Gazelle when the School became operational in 1997, and since that date the 26 aircraft in service have amassed over 100,000 hours flying time between them. Powered by a single Ariel 1D1 gas-turbine engine, which drives a conventional three-blade main rotor and a twin-blade tail rotor, the Squirrel is an ideal platform to teach the rudiments of rotary-wing flying. It has an endurance of three hours, a cruising speed of 115 kts (132mph) and seating for a crew of two and four passengers. The Squirrel can be configured either to meet the demands of SEBRW and SEARW, or to meet any secondary transport or communication tasks.

The initial flying-training course with No 660 Squadron, the Army Air Corps (AAC) element of DHFS, teaches basic rotary-wing skills and emergency handling, culminating in a first solo and a handling check prior to SEARW training. The SEARW phase of the course, run by 705 NAS, Fleet Air Arm element of DHFS, is where basic skills are consolidated and developed into more applied techniques. The syllabus includes nonprocedural instrument flying, basic night flying, low-level and formation flying, mountain flying and an introduction to winching for RN students. In addition to DHFS, the Squirrel HT1 is used by the Central Flying School (Helicopter) Squadron at RAF Shawbury for instructor training, and by 670 AAC Squadron, based at Middle Wallop, in Hampshire, for operational training.

Griffin HT1

The Griffin HT1 is used as an advanced flying-training helicopter at the Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS) at RAF Shawbury, in Shropshire, and the Search and Rescue Training Unit (SARTU) at RAF Valley, in Anglesey. There are eleven aircraft in service; eight are based at RAF Shawbury and three are based at RAF Valley. The Griffin HT1 is a military twin-engined helicopter derived from the civilian Bell Textron 412EP helicopter and is powered by two Pratt & Whitney turboshafts rated at 1800shp. The aircraft has an advanced, composite material, fourblade main rotor system, and pendulum dampers on the rotor hub to reduce vibrations at higher cruise speeds. The composite main-blades can be interchanged and folded easily for storage.

With a cruising speed of 120kts (138mph) and an endurance of almost 3 hours which makes it ideally suited for advanced helicopter training, the Griffin HT1 is ideally suited for Multi-engine Advanced Rotary Wing (MEARW) training, which is completed over a period of 34 weeks on No 60(R) Squadron at RAF Shawbury. The syllabus includes general-handling flying, underslung-load carrying, night-vision goggle training, procedural instrument flying, formation flying, low-flying navigation and an introduction to tactical employment, including operations from confined areas. A short SAR-procedures course, which includes elements of mountain flying and maritime rescue winching, is conducted at RAF Valley. However, students who are finally streamed for SAR flying duties on completion of their advanced helicopter training return to SARTU to complete an extended SAR course prior to joining the Sea King Operational Conversion Unit at RAF St Mawgan.

In addition to pilot training, the Griffin is used for crewman training: a very important and integral part of multi-crew operations. A Griffin simulator, with full motion capability and an advanced graphics suite, is also based at RAF Shawbury and is a fully integrated part of the MEARW course. It is especially useful for procedural instrument-flying training and practising complex emergency-handling techniques. The Griffin, which has now been in service with DHFS for five years, is also used in its HAR2 form by No 84 Squadron on SAR duties in Cyprus.

Beechcraft King Air 350ER Avenger 

Rear Crew Training (RC) (Stage 1) puts in place a training system for Royal Navy (RN) observer students that comprises Phase 1 Introductory Flying Training (IFT), a Common Core Ground School (Long Course) (CCGS) (LC), Phase 2 Elementary Navigation Training (ENT) and Phase 3 Basic Flying Training (BT). 

On successful completion of Phase 3, graduates will be appointed to their Operational Conversion Units (OCUs).  IFT, CCGS and ENT will be conducted at Barkston Heath, and Phase 3 will be conducted at Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS) Culdrose.

The Rear Crew (Stage 1) programme is through Contract Award and well on the way to delivering.  The full training solution builds on 4 new Beechcraft King Air 350ER, planes which replaced the venerable Jetsream T2 with the 750 Naval Air Squadron, new ICT provision, Desk Top Trainers (DTT), Tactical Mission Trainers (TMT), Mission Planning Stations (MPS), refurbished infrastructure and innovative Computer Based Training and Computer Aided Instruction (CBT/CAI). The four planes, modifications for service and 5 years of support and logistics cost 57 million dollars. They are undergoing modifications and kitting of systems prior to entrance in service. The Avenger fleet of 4 aircraft is due to arrive at RNAS Culdrose in Cornwall in June 2011, with flying activities to follow in July. With staff training complete the first RCT course will begin on 4 Oct 2011. RCT will be delivered by Ascent staff working alongside their Royal Navy counterparts, within the framework of 750 NAS.  

Additionally, Ascent has secured a number of flying hours on the existing Grob Tutor LAFT2 contract to support IFT and ENT.  It is anticipated that the first ab initio students will enter the Rear Crew Stage 1 IFT in June 2011.

The training squadrons of the armed forces:
(OCUs excluded)

Royal Air Force

19 Squadron – Hawk T1/1A/2 – RAF Valley
Tactics and weapons training for both RAF and RN pilots.

208 Squadron – Hawk T1/1A/2 – RAF Valley
Advanced Flying Training for both RAF and RN pilots.

100 Squadron – Hawk T1/1A/2 – RAF Leeming
Incorporated within 100 Squadron is the Navigator Training Unit that conducts the final phase of training for navigators destined to fly the Tornado GR4. Also operating the Hawk is JFACTSU (Joint Forward Air Controller Training and Standards Unit). Their primary role is to develop, standardise and teach forward air controlling.

45 Squadron – Beechcraft King Air B200 – RAF Cranwell
Multi-engine advanced training course.

55 Squadron – currently without planes after retirement of Dominie T1 – RAF Cranwell   

60 Squadron – Griffin HT1 – RAF Shawbury, part of the Defence Helicopter Flying School

72 Squadron – Tucano T1 – RAF Linton-on-Ouse

207 Squadron – Tucano T1 - RAF Linton-on-Ouse

Royal Navy

727 NAS – Grob Tutor T1 – Yeonvilton
The squadron currently operates five Grob Tutor trainer aircraft under a private finance initiative with VT Group's aerospace division (VTAe). This, along with five Qualified Flying Instructors (QFIs), allow up to ten students to be accommodated with the squadron at any time.

Serving officers are assessed for their suitability to continue flight training during a three-week stay with the squadron. During those weeks, he or she will fly eleven hours with an instructor before flying a pre-FHT with a different instructor and then a Final Handling Test with the commanding officer.

The squadron also undertakes many other roles, one of which is the Special Flying Award. This scheme is open to any member of the public who has expressed an interest in joining the Fleet Air Arm as aircrew and have been put forward by their Careers Office. The course lasts for two weeks with the aim of 10 hours in the cockpit. There are also a number of Special Flying Awards organised for members of the URNU.

The squadron currently has just two full time Naval personnel; the commanding officer and the training officer. VTAe employs five civilian flying instructors under their contract to teach the students. The squadron is also supported by a number of ex-service QFIs from the RNR to instruct and two holdover student pilots who are between flying training courses bourne for general duties. Maintenance of the Grob fleet is provided by a VTAe senior licensed engineer with three engineering support staff. An aircraft handler provides aircraft handling, refuelling and assistance to aircrew. The squadron moved from Plymouth Airport to RNAS Yeovilton in early in 2007, following the departure of the last Sea Harrier squadron from RNAS Yeovilton in 2006.

705 NAS – Squirrel HT1 – RAF Shawbury
705 Squadron teaches instrument flying, navigation, night flying and search and rescue techniques to personnel from all three services as part of the Defence Helicopter Flying School.

703 NAS – Grob Tutor T1 - RAF Barkston Heath
Elementary Flying Training for the Royal Navy using the Grob Tutor. Together with 674 Sqn AAC, which trains Army pilots they form the Defence Elementary FlyingTraining School . Trainee Royal Navy pilots fly a 60 hour course which includes General Handling, Navigation, Instrument and Formation flying after which they will be streamed for further Rotary or Fixed wing training.

750 NAS – Beechcraft King Air 350 Avenger – Culdrose
750 NAS is tasked with training the Fleet Air Arm's Observers. After undergoing initial training at Britannia Royal Naval College, trainee aircrew officers join 750 NAS for a seven-month period of training in all aspects of airborne navigation, airmanship and other tactical skills. This is conducted in classrooms as well as in the air and in a computer-controlled simulator. Upon completion of this course they will be ready for Advanced Flying Training and will be streamed for their eventual specialisation.
On completion of the training observers choose or are selected to serve in Westland Sea King, Westland Lynx or AugustaWestland Merlin helicopters.

Army Air Corps

676 Squadron – Middle Wallop
The primary role of 676 Squadron Army Air Corps (676 Sqn AAC) is to look after the administration and well being of all Phase 2 Army Air Corps (AAC) trainees at the Army Aviation Centre (AACen). The Squadron provides a base from which all Phase 2 trainees can be looked after and mentored.

668 Squadron – Middle Wallop
The role of the Squadron is to provide Phase 2 and 3 signals, groundcrew and tactical refuelling training. 668 (Trg) Sqn AAC also provides Junior and Senior Command, Leadership and Management (CLM) courses for Junior and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers and the Ground Support Commanders Course for Officers.

670 Squadron – Squirrel HT1 – Middle Wallop
The Squadron is responsible for the Operational Training Phase of the Army Pilots Course. The Squadron comprises of a Squadron Headquarters and 'A' and 'B' Flights. It uses the Squirrel helicopter.

 671 Squadron – Lynx, Gazelle, Bell 212 – Middle Wallop
The role of the Squadron is to conduct Conversion to Type (CTT) training on the Lynx, Gazelle and Bell 212 for graduates of the Operational Training Phase (OTP) and students on the Aviation Crewman course. The Squadron also conducts Conversion to Role (CTR) training on the Lynx AH7. CTT training on the Lynx, Gazelle and Bell 212 takes 11, 10 and 12 weeks respectively. Lynx CTR takes a further 12 weeks encompassing detachments to Kirkcudbright Ranges (air live firing), RAF Valley (mountain flying) and Europe for a navigation exercise. The final exercise for CTR training, Exercise Tiger's Revenge, is based in North Yorkshire.

673 Squadron – Apache – Middle Wallop
673 Sqn AAC is the Attack Helicopter Training Squadron of the Corps. The role of the Squadron is to conduct Conversion to Type training on the Apache helicopter for both newly qualified and experienced Army pilots. Once this training is complete pilots are posted to their respective regiments to complete their combat training.
The Squadron also conducts Qualified Helicopter Instructor training as well as refresher training for qualified pilots after non-flying tours of duty.

660 Squadron – Squirrel HT1 – RAF Shawbury
This squadron provides a 10 weeks course of Basic Flying Training (Helicopter) to personnel from all three services as part of the Defence Helicopter Flying School.

674 Squadron – Grob Tutor T1 - RAF Barkston Heath
It conducts elementary fixed-wing flying training for British Army pilots and occasionally for overseas military pilots. It is based on RAF Barkston Heath and uses the Grob Tutor airplane.


19 May 2011 -Six NATO and Partnership for Peace nations will receive helicopter crew training services in the UK under a two-year contract awarded via the European Defence Agency. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK will send students to Boscombe Down, Wiltshire, England, under the deal with AgustaWestland.

Using a new facility at the Empire Test Pilots' School, the interim helicopter-tactics training service will provide 20 courses to pilots, navigators, flight engineers and rear crew members.
"The training will help prepare contributing member states' helicopter crews for joint deployment on allied military operations at the same time as they develop their own indigenous tactics training capabilities," AgustaWestland said.
Each three-week course will deliver "individual, joint, collective and coalition training" for up to 20 students, according to the company, tailored to meet operational requirements in Afghanistan. "The founding principle is to deliver whole crew training based on recent operational experience," AgustaWestland said.
Starting later this year, classes will cover tactics, techniques and procedures in areas including airspace management, formation flying, troop insertion and extraction, threat countermeasures and combat search-and-rescue. Students will then receive synthetic training using two high-fidelity simulators. Each has a 180° visual system and can be rapidly reconfigured to represent the cockpit and cabin of different aircraft types, including the AgustaWestland AW101 Merlin and the Mil Mi-171.
Door-gunner training will also be provided.

"The collaboration between these six nations has significantly reduced cost and de-risked future national programmes, whilst still delivering high value and tangible benefits," EDA helicopter project officer Andy Gray said.
The multinational agency first explored the combined interim training system idea in 2008, when it awarded a feasibility study to AgustaWestland.

This level of "Tactical" training might become a permanent addition to the normal training performed via UK MFTS, as a form of pre-deployment advanced preparation.

14 June 2011 -  Discussion with interested bidders for the Fixed Wing element of the training fleet are ongoing, and selection of the preferred bidder is expected for mid-2012. A request for proposals for detailed solutions will be issued in October or November this year, Ascent announced, with the rivals to be given around 90 days to respond.

The contenders are:

BAE Systems-led team also comprising Babcock, Gama Aviation and Pilatus;
Elbit Systems;
Cobham Aviation Services/CAE UK/Cassidian Air Systems Team C3 consortium.

BAE is the only one of the bidding teams to have revealed its proposed solution for the UK military's fixed-wing training needs, with its offer including an upgraded Grob G115E, Pilatus's PC-21 basic trainer and Cessna's Citation Mustang. This solution would retain the current (and recently upgraded) 94 Grob trainers and replace Tucano T1 with the PC-21. The Mustang might be a replacement of the Dominie rear-crew training aircraft recently retired. 
Team C3 is promoting the Hawker Beechcraft T-6C as part of its proposal, while Elbit Systems has yet to disclose its offering.

17 July 2011: during the Royal International Air Tattoo, Elbit systems announced its alliance with KBR for delivering a bid for the Fixed Wing UK military flying training requirement. In the occasion, they have announced the first of the planes that will feature in their offer: they propose to replace the in-service Grob 115E  with the Grob G120, which Elbit manages since 2002 in a fleet contracted to deliver air traning to the Israeli air force.

06 March 2012: replacement of the Squirrel (34 active) and Griffin (11 active) training helicopters of the Defence Helicopter Flying School has been delayed to undetermined date. The helicopters will instead be upgraded and the contract under which Bristow Helicopters/Cobham Aviation Services joint venture provides the helicopters and training services at RAF Valley, RAF Shawbury and at Middle Wallop for the AAC, has been extended to 2016 at a cost of 193 million pounds.

No details on the proposed upgrade to the helicopters, but it is hoped that it will include glass cockpits to allow for a better training to the pilots, that are going to serve in glass cockpits in the upgraded and new Chinooks HC4 and HC6, in the Merlins, in the Wildcat and Apache.

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