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April 2004

Greetings to you all from the Officers and Men of ‘Happy’ IV! It’s been a while since our last update and a lot has happened which I’m sure you will find interesting.

MiG-29 Fulcrum at the NATO Air Meet 2004

September of last year saw the entire Squadron deploy to Poznan, Poland, for the 2003 Nato Air Meet (NAM). Organised by the Tactical Leadership Programme (TLP) staffs, this was a huge success aimed at welcoming new member nations’ air forces to the fold, and IV(AC) Sqn along with a UK E3-D, was Her Majesty’s contribution. Countries such as the Czech Republic (flying their all-new Alca jets) and Hungary (flying older, smokier, MiG-29 Fulcrums) were involved in large multi-national COMAO packages and everyone learned from each other’s experience and lessons every day. With the gingers working ‘Deci’ shifts, and staying in downtown Poznan itself, there was usually a smile or two on people’s faces.

The Team

A fantastic city with a wealth of culture and beauty (and rudely priced cheap beer!) complimented the ‘work hard, play hard’ ethos with visits to Gdansk, Krakow and Auschwitz. Additionally, an International Night brought together the culinary delights of all the countries represented which included Tex-Mex and Jack Daniels (USA), Curry and Pimms (UK, in the Sqn Pimms Pot!) and smelly French raw meats in gooey cheese.

All in all, both flying and on the ground, the Sqn came back from a first-class detachment.

MPC at Valley

October began with a short stay at RAF Valley for a week of AIM 9L firing as part of the Missile Practice Camp (MPC). Later on that month the Squadron said farewell to Wing Commander Andy Suddards who would leave on promotion for a post back in Kuwait! On 21 October, his successor and our new boss, Wing Commander Andy Offer, joined us after a handing-over ceremony in our hangar.

Andy Suddards hands the Sqn over to Andy Offer

As an ex-Red Arrow and Commanding Officer of the ‘team’, he is now working on a diamond Harrier 9! At the very end of the month, the Sqn participated in Ex Joint Maritime Course (JMC) and as such de-camped to the Scottish bliss (?) of RAF Lossiemouth. Dubbed Exercise Haggis Feast from our point of view, it gave the opportunity to use Tain and Garvie ranges for 1000Ib and CRV-7 rocketing! The Squadron also practised Time-Sensitive Targeting (TST) techniques as a lesson brought back from Op TELIC.

The Christmas grant would never be the same without the annual ‘Flying Wing Lunch’ and so armed with fireworks, an old piano, the large ‘boot’ beer glass and by far the best mess cannon you ever saw, we ran riot over the more mundane Harrier squadrons there represented! In fact, having welcomed the Boss with his very own ‘boot’ a fine was declared upon OC 3(Fighting) Squadron who would also receive the same punishment. All was looking good until, whilst half way down the ankle, drive and determination dwindled as he tried to throw the rest away. At this point OC 1(F) promptly necked one to show the ‘cement heads’ a thing or two. So 2003 ended.

During January the Squadron GLO, Capt Dave Kenny (Royal Irish), organized an educational visit to the Household Cavalry Regiment in London. Having worked with their Forward Air Controllers (FACs) during Op TELIC it was a great chance to catch up on their work since then. The visit was split into two parts, separated by a night in Mayfair! The first day saw us visiting the ‘service’ side of the regiment at their barracks in Windsor. After a few presentations we were all given rides in Spartan and Scimitar APCs and taken to the Air Forces’ Memorial at Runnymede. After a ‘good’ night in London we spent the following day viewing the ‘ceremonial’ side of the regiment and looked at how they prepare for guarding the palace on horseback. Amazingly, the horses seemed far more disciplined than some of the men as we watched one poor soul get ‘bounced’ around the parade square for being in ?bad order?! A different world but definitely a visit to remember, and hopefully repeat.

Harrier GR7 over Norway

As usual, February brought the prospect of Ex Snow Falcon 04 so the Squadron dutifully deployed to Bardufoss, Norway. With quite a lot of ATE left from the previous year, it was the ideal place for carrying out live bombing in the CAS environment, utilizing Royal Marine FACs. As well as the obvious opportunity to fly in extreme weather conditions, we also took part in small COMAOs with the Norwegian F-16 MLUs based at Bodo. Towards the end of the det, both Flt Lts Mitch Webb (nee Tompkins) and Scott Williams flew out to Oman to take part in Ex Magic Carpet with 3(F) Sqn. Involving 15 RAF Jaguars of both 41(F) and 54(F) as well as Omani Jags and hawks, every day was a big push in blue-blue conditions?.quite a change in contrast to Norway! During the Ex, the IV Squadron pilots dropped a variety of weapons including Paveway III, 1000Lb, BL755 and CRV7.

On the apron in Norway

That pretty much brings us up to date on things. As this is written, the Sqn is preparing to deploy yet again; this time it’s to Canada for Ex Maple Flag 04 at Cold Lake. We will be away for almost 5 weeks but will surely have plenty to write about on our return. Until then, take care and fly safe… (Mox)