The main focus of training this month has been Operational Low Flying (OLF). This was to ensure that the Sqn had the required level of OLF proficiency prior to Ex HARD FLINT / MAPLE FLAG and ultimately to ensure that all eligible Sqn pilots were OLF qualified prior to Ex SAIF SAREEA II, due to take place Sep/Oct 2001.
The Sqn utilised both 14(T) and 20(T) OLF training areas for the sorties, which involved air interdiction (AI) and offensive counter-air (OCA) missions flown down to 100 ft. All eligible pilots completed at least 3 OLF sorties prior to deploying to Ex HARD FLINT / MAPLE FLAG.
As well as the OLF training, pairs lead and air combat leader work-up sorties were undertaken, along with a considerable number of Maverick sorties. The Maverick training was carried out to ensure that all Sqn pilots were Maverick qualified and to increase the general level of expertise across the Sqn on the new weapon system.
Approximately half of the Sqn and 4 jets deployed on Ex HARD FLINT based from RAFU Goose Bay, Labrador. This was the first half of a 7 week Canada detachment, which was a joint venture between 3(F) and IV(AC) Sqns – 3(F) deploying their full Sqn with 8 jets. Throughout the exercise the Sqns integrated well at all levels, with pilots from both Sqns being involved in the same formations on a daily basis. A considerable flying rate was achieved owing to the good serviceability of the ac and superb weather conditions, which were perfect for flying but thankfully not hot enough for the mosquitoes and blackfly!
Two Forward Air Controllers (FACs) from 3 Commando Brigade visited the Sqn to give a presentation on CAS ground procedures and the current organisation of Tactical Air Control Parties within the Royal Marines. In addition, Sqn members were able to view the typical equipment (including the laser target marking system) that is used by TACP parties. This visit will hopefully be the beginning of a close association between IV(AC) Sqn and 3 Commando Brigade, with both units due to deploy to Oman in the autumn.
Training for the Nijmegen marches continued during the detachment to Canada, with several personnel completing the qualification march in the countryside surrounding Goose Bay airfield.
A large number of Sqn personnel attended the Basic Sea Survival Course (BSSC) in preparation for embarkation on HMS ILLUSTRIOUS. The course involves fire-fighting and ship-shoring skills, and is a requirement for all personnel operating from Royal Naval vessels.