UK Military Flying Training System

In this page i want to provide an overview of the british armed forces flying training, with a particular attention, for obvious reasons, on the Public-Private Partnership that, from 2008, makes the Ascent consortium responsible for delivery of all flying training to the three services under the UK Military Flight Training System arrangement. 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. 
I will keep this page updated with the major news and developments as the MOD grapples with the need to renew both the fixed and rotary wing training fleets over the coming years, while reducing the number of personnel, machines and bases. 

UPDATES 26 November 2014
Ascent is evaluating the bids presented by

- Airbus Helicopter
- Cobham
- Elbit

for the provision of new rotary wing training fleets for the british armed forces. Selection of the preferred bidder is expected in 2015, contract award in 2016 and beginning of training courses in 2018.

Airbus UK is running as prime contractor, after having also offered its helicopters to third-party candidates. It will be proposing its EC130 and EC135 single and twin-engine helicopters. 

AgustaWestland is not seeking prime contractor status, but is instead proposing its helicopters through third-party candidate prime contractors.. AgustaWestland has not officially detailed its proposal, but it is thought that it will include the AW109 Trekker light twin-engine helicopter. According to Flightglobal, the Cobham prime contractor has chosen AgustaWestland as provider of the helicopters for its proposed solution.
Elbit is reportedly going to select Bell as partner, providing probably its model 407 helicopter. 

The new rotary wing training contract will include ground training and equipment to be based in RAF Shawbury. Currently, helicopter training is delivered by Cobham-owned FB Heliservices, which supplies helicopters and services to the Defence Helicopter Flying School in RAF Shawbury. The current contract, which has been extended in recent times, will expire in 2018, when the new service is expected to start.

Ascent has not yet provided details of how many helicopters will be procured, and hasn't detailed a need for separate single and twin engine helicopters. With the demise of Gazelle in 2018, the UK seems set to have no more single-engine military helicopters in service or on the way, so a single-engine trainer is probably not going to be necessary.

UPDATES 24 October 2014
The Affinity team is confirmed as preferred bidder in the race to replace the fixed wing training fleet. Final negotiations underway, FlightGlobal reports ("T-6C to head UK military training renewal", by Craig Hoyle, 24 october 2014). It is also confirmed that Linton on Ouse will no longer be a training centre, with the Tucano replacement based in RAF Valley. There is no official word on the base closing, yet, but it looks like it is the natural follow on event.

Meanwhile, as the article says, 57(R) Squadron has moved into RAF Cranwell by 6 October 2014. 

Separately, it has been confirmed that, like the article below explains, one Army Air Corps Apache squadron will be removed from the frontline strenght and used as Operational Training Unit. The chosen squadron is 653 AAC, 3 Regiment, in Wattisham, and it will transition to its new role during 2015. 
673 AAC in Middle Wallop is expected to continue to deliver Conversion To Role Training, leaving 3 and 4 Regiments with two deployable Apache squadrons each.

UK Military Flight Training System's original 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. 

How military flight training works: units and courses

Royal Air Force Number 22 (Training) Group is responsible for the recruitment, selection, initial and professional training of RAF personnel as well as providing technical training for the Army and Royal Navy. The Group provides education and continual development throughout individuals’ RAF careers. The HQ is based in High Wycombe. 

22 Group does not deliver just Flying Training. It also controls Signals training, including the Royal School of Signals, and other technical training, but the purpose of this article is to overview the air training, which is delivered under Director Flying Training (DFT). 

DFT directly controls the Central Flying School in RAF Cranwell, the 1 Flying Training School in RAF Linton-on-Ouse, the Defence Helicopter Flying School DHFS RAF Shawbury, the 3 Flying Training School in Cranwell and the 4 Flying Training School in RAF Vallery. 

No 2 Flying Training School has been stood up this year to control Air Cadet flying training, as will be seen later in the article, but the organisation has no direct link to the frontline crew formations. 

Elementary Flying Training is delivered by No 1 Elementary Flying Training School, with HQ in Cranwell.  

Middle Wallop delivers Operational Training to the Army Air Corps helicopter crews. All elements shown on the map will be explained in the article. Elementary Flying Training is leaving Wyton this year as the resident squadron moves to Cranwell and Wyton ceases to be a flying station; more on this later.

As of early 2014, an estimate of 250 ab initio pilots and 60 ab initio crewmen enter the system each year. The british flying training pipeline also trains some 40 foreign students on average, under International Defence Training agreements and contracts, such as with Saudi Arabia. 

The UK Military Flying Training System contract

In 2008, the MOD signed a 25-year Public Private Partnership contract for the delivery of flying training to students from all three the armed services. The contract was signed with ASCENT, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Babcock. The role of Babcock is aircraft and equipment maintenance, and airfield support. Lockheed Martin and CAE personnel are involved for support to simulators and electronic training.

As part of the agreement, the MOD sets the requirements and standards of training, while supplying airfields and fuel. ASCENT is responsible for delivering the training courses and for renewing the training aircraft fleets. ASCENT has first of all taken over the legacy, existing fleets and training arrangements, and started to deliver the reworked capability areas in progression.

The first capability area to be touched was Fast Jet Training (FJT), with the order of the 28 Hawk T2 advanced jet trainers and the construction of a new hangar and a two-storey training centre in RAF Valley. The first course began on 2 April 2012.

The second capability area to be touched was Royal Navy Observer training, with ASCENT signing to take over the Observer Training Flight in 703 NAS at Barkston Heath, and with an order placed for four new Beechcraft King Air 350 (Avenger T1 in Royal Navy service) trainer aircraft, assigned to 750 NAS in Culdrose. Avenger flying operations began on 11 April 2012, with the first four Observers graduated in January 2013.

The renewal of other capability areas has been slowed down by reviews, budget uncertainty and cutbacks to the number of crews the UK need to train as the armed forces shrink. The cuts of 2010, in particular, were devastating in this sense, and led to the disbandment of several legacy training squadrons.

ASCENT is still due to renew Elementary Flying Training (EFT), Basic Flying Training (BFT), Multi Engine Pilot Training (MEPT), Rotary Wing Training (RWT) and the RAF Rear Crew Training (RCT2, with RCT1 being the RN Observers training, delivered).

In 2012, with the turmoil of cuts and disbandments passed, it was decided that ASCENT would proceed with the renewal of EFT, BFT and MEPT. A Request For Proposals was put out in December, and three team bidders stepped forth:

BAE Systems, in team with Babcock, Gama and Pilatus proposed maintaining the existing Grob 115E (Tutor T1) fleet for the EFT, while using Pilatus PC-21s as replacement for Tucano T1 for BFT and new Cessna Citation Mustangs replacing the Beechcraft King Air 200 for the MEPT.

An EADS Cassidian-led team comprising CAE and Cobham proposed the Grob G120TP for EFT and the Beechcraft T-6C for BFT. Their proposal for MEPT is not known.

Finally, Affinity Group, a team made up by Elbit Systems and KBR, proposes the Grob G120TP for EFT, the Beechcraft T-6C for BFT and the Embraer Phenom 100 for MEPT. Note that both of the known proposals for MEPT come with twin turbofans, instead of the turboprops which have been the norm this far. The RAF going ahead will only have the A400M and Shadow R1 propelled by multiple turboprops, and evidently it is assessed that turbofans will deliver better training. It still is curious, however, that the Beechcraft King Air 350 is not considered: one would think that commonality with the Shadow R1 fleet and Avenger fleet would still be attractive, even if maintenance is carried out by Babcock under the contract arrangements.

News reports suggest that the Affinity Group is going to win. An announcement is (or at least was) expected before the end of this year (2014. The preferred bidder status of Affinity has been officialized on october 24). At ILA Berlin Air Show earlier this year, a presentation by Ascent said that contract award is expected in the first quarter of 2015. In May 2017 Cranwell would begin receiving the first new Elementary Flying Training aircraft, and the first student course would start in December 2017.

The new Basic Fast Jet Trainers would begin arriving at RAF Valley in April 2018, with the first student course in January 2019. The METP would see deliveries of the new trainer aircraft beginning at Cranwell in October 2017, with the first student course starting in June 2018. 

The Phenom 100 could be the next multi engine trainer

The T-6C could replace the Tucano

The Rotary Wing Training should select the way ahead by around 2018. The replacement of the legacy training fleet was delayed in 2012, and the contract covering the existing fleet and arrangements was extended out to 2018, but the old Squirrel and Griffin are increasingly inadequate, with their old avionics being in no way representative of the glass cockpits and systems the crews will find on passage to the frontline. The Rotary Wing Training at DHFS Shawbury currently is delivered by FB Heliservices.

AINoline in one article said that a RFP for the renewal of the Rotary Fleet was expected this month, but so far there have been no news. Confirmations that the competition is to begin soon have filtered, though, and Airbus is already positioning itself to offer the EC-130 and EC-135, Flightglobal reported from Farnborough.

Work has also begun to define the RCT2 training package for rear crewmen.

By 2019, if there aren’t further changes and delays, all the training packages might be delivering. One current training base, RAF Linton-on-Ouse, is expected to lose its Basic Fast Jet Training role, which will be consolidated in RAF Valley under current plans.

As is explained in greater detail in this article, RAF Valley is very likely to see the disbandment of 208(R) Squadron by around 2016, and it appears that the idea is to use the room freed by it to house the BFT school and its single flying squadron.

Another installation which is seen as at risk is Middle Wallop. The Army is resisting calls to concentrate helicopter training completely in Shawbury, as it believes that Middle Wallop is perfectly located to provide the right challenges to pilots undergoing Operational Training Phase: the base’s airspace is crowded, and the closeness to Salisbury Plain and to important Joint Helicopter Command bases and fleets is assessed as being extremely beneficial to training.

670 AAC Squadron, in Middle Wallop, uses 9 Squirrels updated by the army with a moving map display, a simulated ­defensive aids system panel and night vision goggle-compatible anti-collision lighting to support formation flying at night. They are able to deliver a much more complete and operationally relevant preparation to crews before they move on to 671 Sqn (OCU, or better Conversion To Type unit for Lynx, Gazelle and Bell 212) or 673 Sqn (Conversion to Type unit for Apache).

The future of Middle Wallop hangs in the balance of a number of choices regarding the delivery of training in the future. Will the Army’s Operational Training Phase be sacrificed on the altar of savings, or anyway absorbed somewhat by the future RWT in Shawbury? As the Wildcat replaces the Lynx, the Gazelle eventually leaves service and the handful of Bell 212 face an uncertain future, will 671 remain? The Wildcat fleet has its training centre in Yeovilton, and 652 Sqn is earmarked as the OCU: either 671 Sqn vanishes and gives its role completely to 652, or both squadrons stay, one delivering Conversion to Type training and one Conversion to Role (more advanced training, specifically focused on operational, tactical use of the machine). The same uncertain future faces 673 and the Apache force. As the attack regiments restructure, it is not at this stage publicly known how training will be reorganized.

The Apache pilots, after completing their initial training or after coming from another type, move to 673 Sqn in Middle Wallop. This is the Apache Conversion To Type training squadron, which delivers 8-months training courses to form the crews of the attack helicopter.
Achieving conversion to type, however, is not at all the end of the training. Conversion to Role prepares the crews for actually flying combat missions.  

3 and 4 Regiment AAC have borne the burden of a constant presence in Afghanistan for all these years, by adopting a two-year cycle that sees one Regiment committed to operations and one in supporting role.
For example, in its operational year, 4 Regiment would cover the 12 months by deploying each of its three squadrons for a 4-month tour, modelled on RAF guidelines (which have been selected by Joint Helicopter Command, the higher authority the AAC responds to).
In the same 12-months period, 3 Regiment, in the supporting role, would deliver Mission Rehersal Exercise (MRX) support to troops preparing for deployment; Operational Conversion Training and a token Contingency force available for new operations, such as Op Ellamy in 2011.

One squadron on rotation between the three in the Supporting regiment would be tasked as Conversion To Role (CTR) unit, inglobating the Air Manoeuvre Training and Advisory Team (AMTAT). The Squadron would also hold Station Airfield responsibilities, looking over Wattisham, and would deliver training for shipboard operations, delivering Deck Landing Qualifications (DLQ).

Effectively, this arrangement was considered a 5 + 1 solution of five deployable squadrons and one training unit.

Under Army 2020, if the plan hasn't been revised further, the idea seems to be to reduce the Attack Regiments to binary formation, with two squadrons each, in line with the new binary structure of 16 Air Assault Brigade.
In addition, one squadron, while no longer frontline tasked, would remain as “OCU” unit: this could be, judging from the fate of 654 Sqn, the future of whatever squadron will be selected within 3 Regiment AAC once involvment in Herrick is over and the regiment is restructured to its binary Army 2020 structure.

What is not clear is if this “OCU” based in Wattisham would complement 673 Sqn by delivering Conversion to Role training, or if it would replace 673 and deliver both Conversion to Type and Conversion to Role courses.

The future of 671 and 673, their continued existence and their basing, will be decisive for the future of Middle Wallop. It is far from impossible to imagine the MOD pressing the Army to concentrate Wildcat CTT and CTR in Yeovilton and concentrate Apache training in Wattisham, in order to close down Middle Wallop.

The future of 670 Sqn and Operational Training Phase is also crucial for the future of the base. Its replacement might come through a new requirement, outside UK MFTS, which was explained by deputy commander of Joint Helicopter Command, Brigadier Neil Sexton, in January 2014. The brigadier went on record saying that the MOD is now looking at a Surrogate Training requirement, which might help cover the Operational Training requirement and download some of the training flying from expensive Wildcat and Apache airframes to a much cheaper, but representative, machine.
In January, the idea was described as having small fleet of smaller, cheaper surrogate training helicopters (indicatively six for each base) equipped with dummy systems and adequate human-machine interface to enable highly realistic training at lower cost. The pilots will need to be able to move seamlessly from the surrogate to the real thing.
A key factor is that this requirement would be detached from the DHFS, which would continue to deliver Initial Training. 

Such Surrogate Trainers could be an excellent solution, but being based alongside the helicopters they would represent, they would do nothing to save Middle Wallop, as they would be housed instead in Yeovilton, Wattisham, Odiham, Benson.

In other words, going ahead, as the training pipeline is renewed, at least two bases risk being lost: RAF Linton-on-Ouse and Middle Wallop.

The UK MFTS, on its part, will go ahead with just four bases: Barkston Heath with the Defence Elementary Flying School; Shawbury with the Defence Helicopter Flying School, Cranwell and Valley, plus Culdrose if we include 750 NAS and its operations. 

Another training unit that will be impacted in future is the SARTU, based in RAF Valley. The Search and Rescue Training Unit will undoubtedly be affected by the passage of SAR duties from the military to the Depertment of Transport in 2016. 
SARTU provides ab initio rearcrew students with an introduction to SAR helicopter techniques in both the Winch Operator and Winchman roles. This training includes mountain and overwater helicopter operations. SARTU also provides a selection course and dedicated rearcrew training to meet the needs of the UK SARF and 84 Sqn RAF. 84 Sqn, based in Cyprus, will remain and will maintain its SAR capability, so a residual SAR training capability will be needed, but it is not clear how it will be delivered. 

On behalf of DHFS, SARTU also delivers tailored SAR courses to foreign and commonwealth military and civilian customers.
Finally, the unit runs a number of staff courses to form Qualified Helicopter Instructors (QHI) and Qualified Helicopter Crewman Instructors.  

The training pipeline

A 22 Group presentation, released in 2011, shows the arrangement of flying training post-SDSR. I’ve modified the slides slightly, to include the RN Observer course and to include training squadron indications.


In more detail, here I will explain the passages of the training process:

RAF Direct Entry personnel and/or trainees with University Air Squadron experience first of all undergo the Initial Officer Training IOT at the Officer and Aircrew Training Unit (OACTU), RAF College Cranwell. They then move into the flying training pipeline, beginning with ground school courses in Cranwell (No 3 Flying School) which are the same for all three services, and thus Joint in nature (purple color in the graphic).

RAF students then progress into RAF No 1 Elementary Flying Training School, which puts them into courses flying the Grob Tutor. As of 2011, the course lasts 24 weeks, including 55 flying hours.  

The school stood up in 2005 with 3 squadrons: 16 (R) Sqn at Cranwell, 57 (R) Sqn at Wyton and 85 (R) Sqn at Church Fenton.

85(R) Squadron was disbanded in August 2011 due to the reductions coming from the SDSR 2010 and RAF Church Fenton was closed down during 2013.

57(R) Squadron is due to transfer into Cranwell by the end of August as Wyton ceases to be a flying station and fully transforms into the Joint Forges Intelligence Group station, part of Joint Forces Command. 

Tutor T1

Following the EFT phase, RAF students are streamed either to the multi-engine (ME) line or to the fast jet (FJ) line or the rotary wing line.  

Army Air Corps and Royal Navy personnel are first graded by the squadrons 676 AAC in Middle Wallop and by 727 NAS in Yeovilton respectively. Both squadrons use a handful of Grob Tutor aircraft supplied by Babcock under contract for this task.

After moving through ground school in Cranwell, Army and RN students move to the Defence Elementary Flying Training School in Barkston Heath, where they train on the Tutor aircraft of either 674 AAC or 703 NAS. The courses are a bit different: RN personnel flies 55 hours vs 40 for the Army, and has 24 weeks long courses compared to 13 to 14 weeks for the Army personnel.

A limited number of Army students move into the Multi Engine stream to train for the Defender / Islander fleet of 5th Regiment AAC, while the others progress into the Rotary Wing Stream.

RN students move on to the Rotary Wing Stream or to the Fast Jet Stream.

In addition, the Royal Navy needs to train Observers:  they receive a purposefully designed training from Observer Training Flight, 703 NAS, before moving to 750 NAS for training on the Avenger T1 (Beechcraft King Air 350 supplied under UK Military Flying Training System).

In 750 NAS, RNAS Culdrose, the observer students are prepared for systems and sensors management and all-weather aircraft operations before going to serve into the rotary wing pipeline.

The Fast-Jet path moves on through No 1 Flying Training School in RAF Linton-on-Ouse, where they fly on the Tucano T1 with 72(R) Squadron. 124 flying hours are amassed as part of a 40 weeks instruction course.

The other squadron of the school, 76 Sqn, was disbanded as a consequence of the SDSR 2010. 

Tucano T1
When Basic Fast Jet Training (BFJT) is completed and the wings are obtained, the training moves to RAF Valley, where No 4 Flying Training School completes the job delivering Advanced Jet Training with the Hawk T2 of IV(R) Sqn, with a course of some 36 weeks including 120 flying hours.


The ME path includes a 5 weeks Multi-Engine Lead-In (MELIN) course flown on Tutor and overseen by 45(R) Squadron, before the Multi-Engine training proper is carried out on Beechcraft King Air 200 flying from Cranwell with 45(R) Squadron, followed by the passage to the relevant Multi-Engine OCU squadron. 

Beech King Air 200
For ME training, RAF Students coming from Elementary Flying Training and students from the Defence Helicopter Flying School which decide to re-role have to pass through a Multi-Engine Lead In (MELIN) course lasting 5 weeks with 12 flying hours on Grob Tutor.

This is not necessary for more experienced personnel re-roling or re-streaming from other branches. Depending on their preparation, they are sent either to Multi Engine Advanced Flying Training – Long courses of Short courses, which lead eventually to passage in the fleet OCU squadrons.

Army personnel directed to the Defender/Islander fleet move through a purposely designed MELIN course lasting 6 weeks and including 19 flying hours on Tutor, before passing through a ME AFT Long course.


RAF personnel moving to the rotary stream (either coming out of RAF elementary flying training or re-streaming from various points of the fixed wing careers / training paths) move through the same ground courses faced by Army and Royal Navy pilots coming from the Defence Elementary Flying Training School.

After the classroom instruction, all students, from all three services, move through the Single Engine Rotary Wing courses delivered by 660 Sqn AAC and 705 NAS at the Defence Helicopter Flying School in RAF Shawbury. The helicopter employed is the Squirrel HT1. 

Squirrel HT1

After this course is completed, paths separate: RAF personnel streams into the (60) Squadron Lead In Course (SLIC), and moves on towards Multi Engine Advanced Rotary Wing training, flying 77 hours on the Griffin HT 1 of 60(R) Squadron RAF. 

Griffin HT2. In the HAR2 variant, it serves in Cyprus with 84 Sqn.

Army and Royal Navy personnel, curiously, do not face a multi-engine training course, despite all the Army and RN helicopters being multi-engine (with the exception of Gazelle, as long as it is in service). Navy personnel instead move through the Maritime Ops Lead In Course (MOLIC) at 705 NAS before reaching the OCU squadrons. They only receive their wings after completing the training at the OCU squadrons. 

Army personnel face the Army Lead In Course (ALIC) at 660 Sqn AAC, before moving to Middle Wallop for the Operational Training Phase (OTP) flown on the Squirrel HT2 of 670 Sqn AAC. The successful students get their Wings, and then move on to 673 Sqn (Apache OCU) or 671 Sqn (Lynx, Gazelle, Bell 212 OCU) for Conversion To Type training. 

Crewmen (loadmasters, EW and intelligence operators etcetera) are trained starting with the Non-Commissioned Aircrew Initial Training Course, lasting 11 weeks and delivered by the Officer and Aircrew Training Unit (OACTU) RAF Cranwell, followed by a Weapon System Operator Generic (WSOp Generic) lasting ten weeks and delivered by 45(R) Sqn.

Crewmen and Navigator / WSO for Tornado were once trained on the Dominie T1 (version of the BAE HS.125) by 55(R) Squadron at Cranwell, but the squadron was disbanded and the aircraft withdrawn from service in January 2011.

As of 2014, however, the way forwards for rear crewman (Fixed Wing) training is still a bit up in the air. The RAF is considering ways to incorporate some of its crewmen training needs into 750 NAS at Culdrose, for example, while it waits for a more effective solution that might be years away. The Military Flying Training System project includes a RAF Rear Crew Training requirement (RCT2, since RCT1 has been contracted, delivered and is operating, being 750 NAS itself) but so far it has not progressed in any significant way. The purchase of a new fleet of rear crew training aircraft is not currently funded, so it is to be assumed that the RAF will have to make do for quite a while still, meeting the requirement by exploiting the aircraft used by 45(R) Squadron for Multi Engine training, and possibly exploiting some of the capability of the RN’s Avenger aircraft in 750 NAS.


The Flying Training Schools 

No 3 Flying Training School – RAF Cranwell

Flying Wing provides training for multi-engine pilots using the seven Beechcraft King Air B200 aircraft of No 45(R) Squadron.

The Wing also incorporates Central Flying School (CFS) Tutor Squadron, Ground School Squadron, Air Traffic Control Squadron, Operations Squadron, General Service Training Squadron and the Meteorological Office.

The Central Flying School is the RAF’s primary institution for the training of military flying instructors, for testing individual aircrew, audit the Flying Training System, give advice on flying training and provide the RAF Aerobatic Team. Established at Upavon on 12 May 1912, the Central Flying School (CFS) is the longest serving flying school in the world.

No 1 Elementary Flying Training School – RAF Cranwell 


(1 EFTS) has its Headquarters at Rauceby Lane, Royal Air Force College Cranwell together with the Central Flying School. The School is responsible for fixed wing elementary flying training for pilots of all 3 UK armed forces and for pilots from some overseas countries.

Following the disbandment of 85(R) Squadron and the closure of RAF Church Fenton, the school comprises two RAF squadrons:

16 (R) Sqn at Cranwell,
57 (R) Sqn at Wyton; transferring to Cranwell this year

The EFTS stream also includes 703 Naval Air Squadron and 674 Squadron Army Air Corps at the Defence Elementary Flying Training School, RAF Barkston Heath.

Flying the Tutor and “training the trainers” for the EFTS stream is 115 (R) Sqn of the Central Flying School (CFS) at Cranwell (transferring to RAF Wittering this year), and 14 University Air Squadrons (UASs) based at 12 different locations around the country.

The University Air Squadrons offer flying training to undergraduates and represent a way to experience life in the RAF without / before joining. There is no obligation to sign up for RAF service at the end of the UAS period. All UAS are equipped with the Tutor T1. As we have seen earlier in the description of the training pipeline, the training in the UAS is not necessarily part of the preparation of RAF crews.

No 1 Flying Training School – RAF Linton-on-Ouse

The school delivers Basic Fast Jet training, using the Tucano T1. The school used to have two BFJT squadrons, 72(R) and 207(R), plus 76(R) squadron to deliver air navigation training, as part of the WSO courses.

However, the SDSR 2010 with its cuts ended the WSO training line, leading to the disbandment of 76(R) Squadron in May 2011. The reduction in the number of personnel to be trained also led to the disbandment of 207(R) in January 2012.

The School retains a single flying squadron, 72(R).

Personnel from Central Flying School is on the base to train the Tucano Qualified Flying Instructors.

No 2 Flying Training School – RAF Syerston

This school was stood up only recently, and in January 2014 took command of the RAF Air Cadet’s national gliding, which means controlling the world’s largest fleet of gliders. The school commands 25 Voluntary Gliding Squadrons which deliver a training program for up to 45.000 cadets in the age range 13 to 19. The school represents the first full time reserve officer position, at Group Captain rank, in a flying command appointment. Full time reservist officer Group Captain John Middleton is the first commander of the school.

The school brings training for the Air Cadet Organization back under RAF roof. The ACO is sponsored by the Royal Air Force but is not a recruiting organization. It is to be noted, however, that up to 50% of RAF personnel will on average have been a cadet in youth.

The ACO is made up by two areas:

The Air Training Corps is the RAF's cadet force, and is divided into six regions, 34 wings and around 1000 squadrons within communities around the UK.

The RAF section of the Combined Cadet Force (RAF). Combined Cadet Force welcomes cadets of all three services coming together in approximately 200 independent and state schools across the UK.

The cadets receive flying training thanks to instructors of the RAF Volunteer Reserve (Training). The flying experience is delivered by the Air Experience Flights and Volunteer Gliding Squadrons.

12 Air Experience Flights based mainly on RAF Stations provide air training for the RAF Section of the Combined Cadet Force.

Viking T1

Vigilant T1

The Air Training Corps gives air experience to cadets mainly through the Volunteer Gliding Squadrons. Manned by RAF Volunteer Reserve (Training) personnel, the 25 VGSs are based all over the UK and comprise 8 Conventional Glider Squadrons, equipped with the Viking T1 glider; and 17 squadrons equipped with the Motor Glider Vigilant T1.

Conventional Glider Squadrons

  • 614 VGS (MDPGA Wethersfield),
  • 615 VGS (RAF Kenley),
  • 621 VGS (Hullavington),
  • 622 VGS (Trenchard Lines),
  • 626 VGS (Predannack),
  • 644 VGS (RAF Syerston),
  • 661 VGS (RAF Kirknewton),
  • 662 VGS (RM Condor),

Motor Glider Squadrons

  • 611 VGS (RAF Honington),
  • 612 VGS (Dalton Barracks),
  • 613 VGS (RAF Halton),
  • 616 VGS (RAF Henlow),
  • 618 VGS (RAF Odiham),
  • 624 VGS (RMB Chivenor),
  • 631 VGS (RAF Woodvale),
  • 632 VGS (RAF Ternhill),
  • 633 VGS (RAF Cosford)
  • 634 VGS (MOD St. Athan),
  • 635 VGS (RAF Topcliffe) (Formerly at BAE Samlesbury)
  • 636 VGS (Swansea Airport)
  • 637 VGS (RAF Little Rissington)
  • 642 VGS (RAF Linton-on-Ouse),
  • 645 VGS (RAF Topcliffe),
  • 663 VGS (RAF Kinloss)
  • 664 VGS (Newtownards)

The Volunteer Gliding Squadrons are being equipped with simulators as part of the standing up of the No 2 FTS. 25 simulators have been ordered and will be distributed one in each VGS. The RAF hopes to later purchase additional simulators, aiming for a final fleet of 17 Vigilant T1 simulators and 10 Viking T1 simulators.

No IV Flying Training School – RAF Valley

The School delivers advanced fast jet training and retains two flying squadrons, 208(R) with the Hawk T1/1A and the IV(R) Sqn with Hawk T2. As has been explained earlier, the position of 208 Sqn is quite precarious, and the unit doesn’t seem to have a long future ahead. 

Advanced Training for Qualified Flying Instructors (QFIs) is delivered by the school on behalf of Central Flying School.

IV Squadron is the current core of the UK Military Flying Training System, and is in the history book as the first strand of training capability completely delivered via MFTS. The Hawk T2 entered service beginning in 2011 to deliver advanced training at an higher level than was possible with the T1. The glass-cockpit T2, with its built-in simulation capabilities, is able to deliver advanced training to such a level to allow the fast jet OCU squadrons to reduce the length of their courses and cut the number of flying hours. This saves a lot of money, since Hawk T2 flying hours are assessed as costing up to 10 times less than Typhoon hours. Every bit of training that can be downloaded from the OCU to the training squadron, in other words, means money saved. 

The squadron is supported by a purpose-built training centre, the Moran building, containing the classrooms, the simulators, the maintenance and administration spaces, and all other components of the unit’s life. Training on the ground is carried out in four electronic classrooms (Classroom-Aided Instruction), and on the laptops assigned to each student, which are fitted with Computer-Based Training software. All flight manuals are electronic.

Going up in complexity, the training centre has six Flight Training Devices, which are mini-simulators that can be linked together and be programmed to simulate the front or rear cockpit depending on need. The FTDs are simpler than a full simulator, and can be used by the student on its own, for self-training and rehearsal, while still being advanced enough to include simulated basic radar use.

There are then two Full Mission Simulators (FMSs), which are not full-motion, but provide motion-cueing in the seat. Apart from the lack of full motion, the realism is absolute: the simulators are treated like real aircraft, and the students only enter them while wearing full flying gear. The dome-screens can project accurate imagery reproducing any part of the UK, thanks to a complete mapping database.

The rate of live flying to simulator in the Squadron is roughly at a 50:50 balance point, overall, with wild differences in the various phases of the instruction: instrumented flying is taught up to 80% in the simulator and just 20% in flight, while air combat training is 90% done in flight.

Flying missions are carefully planned through Hawk Advanced Mission Planning Aid (HAMPA) with briefings held in five Virtual Briefing Rooms.

The beneficial effect of simulation is measured in an improvement in success rates: on the Hawk T1, up to 10% of the students would fail their course, while less than 0.5% of students fails the new generation course, a very significant improvement.

A permanent contractor presence is on the base to ensure continuous availability of the simulators and electronic systems, and the instructors are all former servicemen chosen among the most experienced. 

The Hawk T2 (Advanced Jet Trainer) delivers much improved training thanks to its avionics, and in particular thanks to built-in emulation capabilities. Although the Hawk AJT can be fitted with external stores and real weapons, training is only done with emulation, which ensures huge savings. The Hawk T2 has an advanced cockpit with HUD, moving map display and navigation displayed on three Multi Function Displays arranged in the same pattern found on Typhoon.

Emulation steps in to give the student what the Hawk actually does not have: it emulates stores and weapons, threat warning system and synthetic radar. All of it can be linked in real time to other Hawks to provide realistic, immersive training.

The trainer in the back seat can inject simulated threats in the equation in any moment, in order to make things complex for the student. 

The Hawk T2 on delivery was only programmed to deliver generic MRAAM and IR missile emulation, plus HUD indications for cannon fire. Basic, generic air to ground weapons were also emulated. By the end of 2012, however, Ascent has been given clearance to train the students at SECRET level, with the introduction of specific emulation of AMRAAM, ASRAAM and Paveway IV employment.

The core training course is classified RESTRICTED, and continues to use generic weapon simulation, so that this course can continue to be offered to foreign countries wanting to have their pilots trained in the UK. IV Squadron will have a small surplus of capacity due to the cuts the RAF suffered in 2010, and will be able to take on a number of foreign students even after 208(R) Squadron eventually disbands.

The students don’t use these weapons for real in the course, but fly their delivery and launch profiles, and get accurate digital emulation. Thanks to the HUD recorder and to HAMPA, full debriefings can be carried out after landing, for maximum training effect. By the end of the training course, pilots fly Multi-Role sorties which include low-level flight towards a simulated land target to be hit with Paveway IV. On the way in and out, the student must face simulated threats including enemy interceptors, which are countered with simulated AMRAAM use. AWACS communications is also incorporated in these complex training sorties. 

The new hangar with the Hawk T2s

The Hawk T2 could be armed with gunpod, external fuel tanks, missiles and guided bombs, but in its training role it normally only carries a ventral fuel tank, and uses digital emulation to triain students in weapons employment.

Hawk AJT and related simulation equipment are also Night Vision Goggles and Air to Air Refuelling capable, so there is potential for further downloading of training events from the OCU squadrons to IV Sqn. Considering the savings that this would enable, it is likely that in the near future this possibility will be exploited.

29 Squadron, OCU for the Typhoon fleet, expects to be able to shorten its own courses and cut flying hours because of the higher capabilities students have when they arrive coming from the Hawk T2 courses. Some 65% of OCU training is now delivered via simulation, and the RAF aims to improve the ration in serving frontline squadrons (25% simulation, 75% live flying) to aim to the same 50 : 50 ratio promised by the F-35.

In order to achieve this result, the RAF is planning to buy more Typhoon simulators: currently there are four in Coningsby (two Full Mission Simulators and two Cockpit Trainers) and two in Leuchars (will transfer to Lossiemouth along with the aircraft) and the idea is to purchase a further four (2 for Coningsby, 2 for Lossiemouth) and link them all together for large virtual training scenarios.

The Typhoon Training Facility in Coningsby, meanwhile, will be fully staffed by industry personnel by the end of this year: BAE will hire and supply instructors, chosen from ex-servicemen with experience. The civilian, ex-military instructors will benefit from greater stability, and from the lack of additional tasks that they would have if they were RAF personnel.

Ahead of the withdrawal of the Tranche 1, which includes a great share of the 2-seater Typhoons, the RAF is also experimenting whether times are mature for doing away with the 2-seat. F-22 and F-35 notoriously don’t have a twin-seat trainer variant, and Typhoon in future might follow, as the trial activity “Pandora’s Buzzard” has demonstrated that pilots can fly their very first Typhoon sortie solo, without need for an instructor in the back, even after receiving a 100% simulator OCU course.

Now, such an extreme approach is unlikely to catch up anytime soon, but much reduced need for 2-seaters and live flying are pretty much ensured: better training aircraft in earlier phases of training, and greater use of simulation appear to be the way forwards. 

Simulation will also be key in the F-35 training. A OCU squadron for the F-35B force is planned to stand up around 2019 in RAF Marham, and an Integrated Training Centre will be built on the base to house the simulators and training aids. The UK hopes to train foreign F-35 personnel at the centre, and a preliminary agreement is in place with Norway. 

A great overview of the Typhoon OCU training is available online here.

Other training and training support squadrons

In here I want to include an overview of the remaining air training units, which aren’t or are only partially touched by UK MFTS, and which deliver operational training support.

208 Squadron, RAF Valley: part of No 4 Flying Training School at RAF Valley, 208(R) Squadron flies the legacy Hawk 1. Initially, it was thought that a short transition course on the Hawk T1 would be needed for pilots coming from the Tucano, to soften the move from it to the glass cockpit, advanced Hawk T2 trainer, but it has actually been proven that such a passage is completely unnecessary, and by the end of 2012, with the Hawk T2 fully established in service, british pilots training became the task of IV Squadron, with the T2.

208 Squadron was on the edge of being disbanded, and for all the year its manpower dropped in preparation to the end of the unit, but it was given a last minute reprieve as part of a contract signed with Saudi Arabia for the training of RSAF crews, which began with a first course in February 2013.

208 can so continue to deliver its services, including some training for Royal Navy pilots destined to tours on Super Hornet in the US or Rafale in France, and personnel destined to the Tornado GR4 line. Typhoon students all move through IV Squadron to exploit the greater capabilities of the Hawk T2.

But for how much longer will 208 be around? The survival of the squadron goes against the mechanisms of the UK Military Flying Training System contract, and is justified as “irreducible spare capacity” in the legacy training fleet. As the MFTS kicks fully into gear, however, the training fleet will be restructured to much more tightly conform to the national, british requirement, diminishing significantly the room available for International Defence Training (IDT). As is noted in the RAF Airpower 2014/15 yearbook, the incoming reduction in IDT capacity might mean savings in financial terms for the training fleet, but has negative consequences on the capability of UK Defence to actively engage with foreign partners (british flying training being a very successful engine of international cooperation) at a time in which, formally, “soft power” and “forward engagement” are the buzzword. Not a very coherent line of action.

Some negative effect could also be experienced when it comes to military aerospace export, as the offer of british flying training has, in the past, proven to be an effective tool for making the british offers more attractive on the market.  

The Saudi deal that kept 208 Squadron alive is temporary in nature: it is an interim solution for the Royal Saudi Air Force, which needed a gap filler ahead of the standing up of an adequate training pipeline in Saudi Arabia with the 22 Hawk AJTs that the country purchased. In 2012, ahead of the final agreement, the estimated length for the pilot training arrangement was 3 years. By 2016, in other words, it might be over. Saudi Arabia will begin receive its Hawk AJTs in 2015.

100 Squadron, RAF Leeming: flying from RAF Leeming with the Hawk T1/1A, 100 Sqn serves in a mixed target facilities role (the closest to USAF Aggressor squadrons the RAF gets), supports exercise and training activities and provides dedicated aircraft in support of the Joint Forward Air Controllers Training and Standards Unit, which is also based in Leeming and is the only NATO and US Joint Services accredited schoolhouse in UK Defence to train Joint Forward Air Controllers.

The question for the future of this squadron is the same question facing the Red Arrows and 736 NAS: what after Hawk 1? For now, it seems that the OSD of the Hawk 1 has been moved to the right again, out to 2020, in order to gain time for a decision on the way forwards. A further purchase of Hawk T2 might or might not be the solution to the problem.

736 NAS, RNAS Culdrose and RNAS Yeovilton: recommissioned on 6 June 2013 and first deployed to RAF Lossiemouth for exercise Joint Warrior in October the same year, the squadron is a maritime aggressor unit equipped with 14 Hawk T1. The Squadron is based in Culdrose, with a detachment in Yeovilton. 736 NAS was formed from an amalgamation of the Yeovilton Hawkdet (formerly Naval Flying Standards Flight (FW)) and the Fleet Requirements and Air Direction Unit, a unit of civilian contracted pilots provided by Serco Defence and Aerospace which flew Hawks in simulated air and missile attacks against Royal Navy ships in pre-deployment training. 

The Hawkdet remains as a 736 Detachment in Yeovilton, and the tasks of the FRADU have been all taken over by the new, uniformed squadron. The Hawks simulate enemy fighter aircraft attacking the ships, or high-speed sea-skimming missiles which are fired against ships to allow the crew to train in the procedures to avoid and reduce the damage caused.

The pilots also fly missions for the students of the Royal Navy School of Fighter Control. Fighter Controllers are responsible for controlling and guiding the friendly fighter assets assigned to a group of ships.

In a similar role, the aircraft are also tasked to support the training of RN Observers in the Airborne Early Warning role for 849, 854, and 857 NASs. These missions involve airborne fighter control, as well as the identification of ground targets.

736 NAS hopes to in future serve as an Aggressor squadron in support of training, particularly for the F-35B when it comes. Again in support of the F-35B force build-up, 736 NAS will provide an invaluable holding unit where pilots coming back from exchange in the US or France on F-18s and Rafales can continue to fly and stay up to date, while also refreshing UK maritime methods ahead of the passage into Joint Lightning Force.

115(R) Squadron, RAF Cranwell: 115(R) is tasked by the Central Flying School with the conduction of the flying stage of the training course for new Qualified Flying Instructors (QFIs). The squadron runs two courses, Main and Refresher, which are meant respectively to prepare new instructors the first, and to re-qualify instructors which are switching aircraft type or have been away from teaching for too long. The squadron basically trains the trainers that will then serve in Elementary Flying Training squadrons (16(R), 57(R), 703 NAS, 674 AAC). The squadrons does this on behalf of the Central Flying School in RAF Cranwell, which is the RAF’s primary institution for the training of military flying instructors, for testing individual aircrew, audit the Flying Training System, give advice on flying training and provide the RAF Aerobatic Team. Established at Upavon on 12 May 1912, the Central Flying School (CFS) is the longest serving flying school in the world.

115(R) Squadron employs the Grob G115 Tutor T1. The squadron is transferring this year from Cranwell to RAF Wittering.

Joint Services Air Tasking Organisation JSATO: JSATO is a small organization with HQ in Yeovilton which tasks the aircraft and systems employed in support of air training. They are in particular associated with the fleet of 14 Dassault Falcon DA-20 provided under contract by Cobham Aviation Services to support advanced training exercises.

6 DA-20 are based in Durham Tees Valley International Airport, and have the primary mission of supporting RAF exercises. A second flight of 6 DA-20 flies from Bournemouth, primarily tasked with Royal Navy training. A further 2 aircraft are held in reserve as part of the contract, and resources from the two flights can be mixed to provide service to RAF or RN in any moment.

The DA-20 modified for JSATO service is a crucial element in combat training as it delivers Electronic Warfare and radar jamming to complicate the work of fighter jet pilots, AWACS operators and radar crew on ships and helicopter AEW of the Navy. 

The aircraft is fitted with a powerful ESM suite located in a fairing under the fuselage, and can carry up to 4 pods under the wings which give it a series of capabilities, including that of electronically impersonating fighter jets (such as Su-27 and Su-30, for example) with their sensors and armament.

To do that, the DA-20 carries an Air Threat Radar Simulator; an I/J band jammer to disturb interception radars; an E band Jammer to disturb AWACS and a Rangeless Airbone Instrumented Debriefing System (RAIDS) to interact with other aircrafts in training and deliver accurate, detailed mission debrief after landing.

The aircraft also has an ALE-40 chaff dispenser so it can defend itself like a real combat aircraft, adding further realism.

A part of the aircraft are fitted with Real Time Monitoring System, which takes information via the RAIDS network and allows the crew to serve as Range Training Officer, monitoring the exercise as it happens.

The DA-20 has a crew of 3: a captain, a first officer and an EW Operator. Usually, Cobham hires ex-servicemen to serve in these roles in the JSATO fleet.

The DA-20 puts ships and aircraft, including Sentry E-3D and Royal Navy Sea King ASaC helicopters, in the condition to train realistically and face the disruption of electronic warfare and jamming, while extensively simulating the radar and armament capability of enemy attack aircraft. The DA-20 of course is not a fighter jet, but it brings the electronics to bear, supporting the Aggressor squadrons (100 RAF and 736 NAS) who deliver the kinetic part of the training with the Hawk.

The Hawks do the maneuvering, and the DA-20 cloaks them indirectly to turn them into missiles and enemy fighters. The combination is pretty potent, and comes at an affordable price.

Under the contract, Cobham is to provide 3500 hours of flight in support of RN training, 2500 hours in support of the RAF and 500 contingency hours each year. 

Fixed Wing Training Fleet renewal: early history (up to 2011)
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 renewal, early history (up to 2011)

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  

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. 

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 (removed from service in 2011)

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, and are currently employed by 736 NAS.

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 houses IV(R) Sqn (earlier it had the colors of 19 Sqn), 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.