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2002/04

April 2002

During the month of Mar the Sqn’s main training focus was concentrated on Flt Lt Hanlon’s combat ready work up, CVS training and the Sqn bombing competition. Flt Lt Hanlon continued the Combat Ready work up syllabus carrying out various sorties, though of note he conducted his first AAR (Air to Air Refuelling) trip refuelling from a VC-10.

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On the boat

In support of HMS Ark Royal’s Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI), the Cottesmore Harrier Wing took the opportunity to carry out CVS continuity training. Whilst 1(F) Sqn provided the framework for the detachment, IV (AC) Sqn sent 7 pilots during the two-week period and during this time the Sqn Exec, Sqn Ldr Jamie Hunter, carried out the entire CVS Combat ready work up.

During the last week of the month the Sqn ran a bombing competition at Holbeach AWR. The competition was a chance for the Sqn to carry out a consolidated period of weapons training. The profiles were designed to test the aircrew across a wide range of delivery profiles for non-precision, retarded and free fall weapons. Results are presently being analysed by the QWI staff and some harsh penalties applied where any local rules were transgressed. Some of the Sqn’s pilots have yet to complete their competition sorties. The results will be announced later in the year at a suitable social occasion.

The Stn held a Flight Safety afternoon in the Stn main briefing room. Each Sqn was invited to give a brief with a specific safety theme. IV (AC) Sqn briefed the audience on an incident that took place at RAFO Masirah during exercise SAIF SAREEA II in Sep 01. The incident concerned a brake fire following a high-speed taxi-test when several old lessons were re-learned. Some external speakers also participated in the Flight Safety session.

During Apr, IV (AC) Sqn supported Ex JUDICIOUS FOCUS (JF) 02. The aim of the exercise was to train Stn personnel to set up and operate from bare base sites. As part of the exercise a FARP (Forward Arming/Refuelling Point) was set up at RNAS Yeovilton. IV (AC) Sqn flew missions in and out of the FARP to provide training to the Stn personnel deployed there. IV (AC) Sqn also deployed Flt Lt Shand to the FARP to act as an aircrew liaison officer. Hopefully next year, all Cottesmore Harrier sqns will get the maximum benefit from the JF exercise but for this particular year, geographical constraints only allowed No 3 (F) Sqn to obtain maximum benefit.

The aircraft enjoyed a high serviceability rate during the month. We had ten occurrences of flight safety reports; one was a birdstrike, 6 incidents resulted in INU changes, one an NADC change, an ECU switch panel was replaced and the suspect LOPEC investigation turned out to be a wire chaffing in the IGV indication system. The high incidence across the fleet of INU (inertial navigation unit) failures is bringing into sharp focus a recent Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) modification and possible software clash.

Twenty-five students from the Sheffield School of Journalism visited the Sqn. They were shown around an a/c and given a presentation by one of the aircrew. The students then “turned into” embryo reporters with the aim of harassing participants in Ex JF 02. This provides a useful reality inject to those simulating DOB operations in another country where the natives may not all be friendly.

The Sqn held a charity casino night in the rugby club at RAF Cottesmore. The event was organised by Cpl Spriggs, Jnr Techs Lightfoot and Costin and raised ?320 for the Sqn charities.

The IV (AC) Sqn Association committee met to discuss plans for the Sqn’s 90th anniversary celebrations that will take place in September. The Association website is proving hugely popular in drawing support and some 300 current and ex-IV (AC) Sqn members have already registered.

The Sqn entered a netball team to compete as part of the CO’s cup competition and came 4th. By the end of the month, the Sqn was lying 3rd overall in the CO’s cup and aiming to do even better in the games ahead. Our Sqn Cdr, Wg Cdr Andy Suddards continues to destroy all opposition on the squash court whilst our “Uncle”, Sqn Ldr Keith Skinner, won the Aircrew Association inaugural golf match of the season at Burford by 5 clear points.

Flt Lt Berry attended the TLP academic Offensive Air Operations course at BAF Florennes. It was the first time this course has been run and Flt Lt Berry was the only RAF participant. The course is aimed as an introduction to weapon to target matching and weapons effects. We are hoping to send other officers to Florennes later this year.

Flt Lts Ireland and West attended the AEWC (Air Electronic Warfare Course) at the RAF Air Warfare centre at RAFC Cranwell. The AEWC is a 3 week long course designed to train selected Officers in the principals of EW and their application to air operations and the ground environment.

SQN CDR’S COMMENT

April was another fairly relaxed and enjoyable month for the Sqn, with home based training the main focus. Hopefully this year’s whole programme for the Sqn will continue in the same vein with just a few good detachments such as Alaska and Day TLT to keep the interest going. The last night flying weeks of the ‘season’ were also completed; as the clocks have now moved forward this fact is welcome to all.

The future shape of Joint Force Harrier continues to hang as a large uncertainty over the Sqn and indeed the whole of the Cottesmore Wing. The announcement of the early retirement of the FA2s means that one of the RAF GR7 Sqns is due to stand down at the end of 2006 when the last RN GR7/9 Sqn is about to stand up. It is hoped that IV (AC) Sqn’s greater seniority over 3 (F) Sqn will mean that we remain in existence, however this issue will no doubt be one for Air Force Board attention. Many other issues to do with the Joint Force also remain to be resolved: which bases and hangars the Sqns will occupy; how many Sqns will there be (it is thought that 4 small sqns would be inefficient); what will be the CONOPS for the Force and a myriad more. My senior team remain engaged in these issues at the various meetings with HQ 3 Gp, however, the uncertainty caused by it all is not wholly welcome.

Plans for the 90th Anniversary celebrations continue apace and the event seems to be shaping up nicely. The format will be a Friday happy hour, sports morning on the Saturday followed by BBQ with bouncy castle and flying display with an evening dinner for all in the Officers’ Mess.