February 1992 – The Squadron is at Gutersloh flying the Harrier GR7
The flags are flying, once more IV (AC) is ‘slipping the surly bonds’. However our return to flying in September started more with a whimper than a bang. Like Chinese water torture serviceable aircraft were drip fed back to the Squadron, such that 18 eager pilots were fighting to get into just 5 cockpits by the end of the month.
During the grounding new equipment arrived for the aircraft, in particular a fun new toy called FLIR (forward looking infra red). The results achieved with it are impressive; for example on a typically cold and misty German morning switch on the FLIR and the gloom miraculously disappears to confirm that you definitely are lost. Another addition to the GR 7, which make IV (AC) Sqn Harriers unique, are 100 % LERX ( leading edge root extension ). These are similar to 2 surfboards positioned above the intakes and attached to the wing. The extra lift they produce help the aircraft turn better, making it a more manoeuvrable machine.
Since the last Squadron News members of IV (AC) have travelled to some far flung corners of the earth: from Decimommanu to Dubai, Cyprus to California, Gutersloh to Garvie Island. For the benefit of those unfamiliar with Garvie Island, it is a remote island off the north coast of Scotland. So remote an entire Squadron of 3 (?) pilots managed to miss it with 1000 lb bombs. However rest assured, the IV (AC) dead eye dicks smashed their bombs into the cliffs with unerring accuracy (ish).
This leads nicely to the combined 3 (?) vs IV (AC) bombing competition. This was held in Decimommanu at the beginning of the year. So overwhelming was the IV (AC) victory that no 3 (?) pilot appeared in the top 7 places, with Warren Ward being Top Dog, proving that you don’t need mature good looks to be an accurate weaponeer.
Another Squadron member to turn in some excellent performances is the IV (AC) display pilot Spike Jepson. He displayed at the Dubai Air Show, which is the 3rd largest airshow in the world and attracted a lot of interest due to the Gulf War. Spike displayed 7 times, operating in temperatures up to 35 C. As you can imagine the hovering capability was somewhat lacking, therefore it required skilful flying to produce a display that impressed the many thousands present.
In November the Squadron detached to Cyprus with 19 (F) Sqn, a Phantom Fighter Squadron. For 2 weeks the Cypriot air was filled with the sound of afterburner and the sight of chaff, as Harriers and Phantoms fought pitched battles for the supremacy of the skies. This was a valuable detachment for IV (AC) with many important lessons learnt, not least of them was don’t try to out sing or out drink a Phantom Squadron on its ‘ swansong ‘ in Cyprus. The icing on the cake came when Charlie McIlroy led a Diamond Nine formation over Akrotiri airfield in a farewell salute to the men of 19 (F) Sqn, which sadly disbanded shortly afterwards.
Unfortunately the Boss Malcolm White was posted from IV (AC) during the Cyprus detachment. The Squadron was sad to lose Wg Cdr White, because without doubt it was his firm leadership through a difficult transition period which kept IV (AC) Sqn morale high. Malcolm moves back to England where he takes up the prestigious post as Personal Staff Officer to the Chief of the Air Staff.
3 other popular member of the Squadron have left recently. Dan Griffiths has left to take up a prize place on a Test Pilots course in America. A former contributor to Fourfax, Steve Forward, was posted to the Harrier OCU at Wittering. Finally John Lawson, after an unfortunate knock on the head has accepted the ultimate ignominy of a posting to 3 (?).
The Squadron has welcomed back a former IV (AC) Sqn member in the shape of the new Boss Wg Cdr Dave Haward. Wg Cdr Haward joins us from Belize where he was OC 1417 Flight. Already the Boss has mastered not only the GR 7, with its plethora of knobs and buttons, but also the high tech Squadron colour photocopier.
Another welcome new arrival to the Squadron is Andy Lewis, whose self professed ambition is to be the best Coffee bar Officer IV (AC) Sqn has had.
As ever it has been a period of change both in equipment and personnel, however ‘Happy Four’ looks forward to the year ahead with its customary optimism.