No 2 (Army Co-operation) Squadron has returned to its home base in Norfolk following a four-and-a-half month commitment operating from Kandahar airfield. It has been replaced by 9 (Bomber) Squadron, another Marham-based unit that will be deployed over Christmas and the New Year.
The Thales-ACE presence at both Marham and Lossiemouth provides operational training of Tornado crews pre- and post-deployment to Afghanistan. The simulator training is undertaken alongside actual flying sorties to ensure that the crews are fully trained in all aspects of the job and ready to deploy.
Before deployment, each squadron crew undertakes a series of demanding sorties in the resident Thales GR4 simulator to familiarise themselves with the upcoming operation. The simulator realistically portrays the whole of Afghanistan, including very detailed portrayal of airfields and operating areas. Crews are able to complete total sortie training, following Kandahar taxi and take-off procedures, with temperature and weather set to demonstrate the extremes of heat and cold experienced in such mountainous terrain.
Sorties are designed to immerse the crews in operational procedures, including weapon delivery, while also preparing them for extreme/emergency situations, such as aircraft malfunctions. The sophisticated synthetic environment means that crews can complete training in both day and night scenarios, and in all weathers.
Moreover, during the time that the squadron is deployed, crews are rotated back to the UK on a regular basis to complete further training in the simulator. This prevents ‘skill fade’ in key areas of their flying that they do not commonly exercise when deployed.
During this Operation Herrick deployment, 2 Squadron flew more than 2,000 hours in support of UK and coalition forces.
When squadrons return from their Afghan deployment they are required to undergo re-familiarisation simulator training to bring them up to date with UK peacetime flying procedures and operations from their home base.
Marion Broughton, head of Thales UK’s military aerospace business, says: “Thales has a proud, long history of supporting the RAF in preparing crew for real combat missions such as Afghanistan. Thales’s training services enable crew to rehearse complex missions in synthetic environments to familiarise themselves with real scenarios, bridging the gap between individual equipment-oriented training and live collective training.”
RAF Tornados provide UK and coalition assets with vital air power and close air support. The Tornado GR4 is a variable geometry, two-seat, day or night, all-weather attack aircraft capable of delivering a wide variety of weapons.
The Thales-ACE team is part of the Combat Air Sector of Thales Training Solutions.
As well as the Afghanistan training, the Thales-ACE simulators at RAF Marham and RAF Lossiemouth provide approximately 90 sorties every week to train Tornado crews in a variety of scenarios. In addition to squadron training, the Lossiemouth simulator also undertakes conversion training for crews who have previously not flown the Tornado GR4.
About Thales and Thales UK
Thales is a global technology leader for the defence and security and the aerospace and transport markets. In 2011 the company generated revenues of £11.4bn (€13bn), with 67,000 employees in 56 countries. With its 22,500 engineers and researchers, Thales has a unique capability to design, develop and deploy equipment, systems and services that meet the most complex security requirements. Thales has an exceptional international footprint, with operations around the world working with customers and local partners.
Thales UK employs 7,500 staff based at 35 locations. In 2011 Thales UK’s revenues were around £1.4bn.