The Royal Air Force is an important part of our defence services along with the army and the navy. The RAF is constantly protecting the United Kingdom and her interests twenty four hours a day seven days a week, while historically the RAF has served as a crucial part in past conflicts and wars. The RAF strives to be the best by recruiting and training the best people plus keeping its equipment and planes up to the minute at all times. Let's take a look at the aircraft the RAF flies today plus what kind of training a pilot goes through in order to be the best.
Aircraft in Service Today
Since the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review we have seen a steady reduction in the number of aircraft used by the RAF. Combat aircraft have seen their numbers greatly lowered with planes such as the BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4 Maritime Patrol Craft cancelled due to its escalating costs. Quick Reaction Alert Aircraft have however increased in number due to problems in our air space concerning Russia.
The Euro Fighter Typhoon FGR4
The Typhoon FGR4 is a multi-role combat aircraft with a range of capabilities including air policing and peace support, while this fighter is also used in high intensity conflict situations. This state of the art aircraft features pilot voice recognition along with an extremely advanced cockpit, while by 2015 there will be one hundred and seven Typhoon aircraft in use. Specifications of the Typhoon are as follows:
- 2 Eurojet EJ200 turbojets
- 55,000 feet maximum altitude
- Span 11.09 metres
- Maximum speed 1.8 Mach
- 15.96 Long
- One crew member
- Weaponry Paveway IV, ASRAAM, AMRAAM, Enhanced Paveway II and Mauser 27mm Cannon
The Tornado G4 is a two seater, day or night, all weather attack aircraft with variable geometry that is capable of delivering a diverse assortment of weapons plus is used for reconnaissance missions too. This aircraft has been one of the major players for the RAF over the years, while as it has been constantly upgraded to a high degree it means that it has never gone out of favour.
This amazing machine can operate at very low levels, in bad weather, day and night and is fitted with the most up to date precision guided weapons. The plane also features the Litening II advanced targeting pod necessary for precision attack and reconnaissance missions. Versatile and capable the Tornado is one of the RAF's most important aircraft. Tornado Specs include:
- 50,000 feet maximum altitude
- 2 RR RB199 MK 103 Turbo Fans
- Span 8.6m
- 1.3 Mach Maximum speed
- 2 air crew
- 16.72m long
- Weaponry includes DMS and Legacy Brimstone, Mauser 27mm Cannon, ASRAAM, Enhanced Paveway II, Storm shadow, Paveway II, III and IV
F35 Lightening II
The F35 Lightening II is due to come into use by the RAF in 2019 and is the worlds most advanced multi role fighter plane. The F35 is one of the most technologically advanced fighter planes on the planet combining stealth, speed and agility enabling pilots to be eight more times effective in air to ground missions, air to air missions and reconnaissance missions too due to its 360 degree view.
For more information regarding the RAF's future plane please visit the F35 website where all the latest news and updates are available regarding its production and release.
E-3D Sentry AEW1
This awesome aircraft serves in an airborne surveillance plus command and control role, while it was bought at first primarily to fill an airborne early warning role. Air and sea surveillance and weapons control are also part of this planes uses.
This intelligent aircraft can separate, manage and display targets separately on the aircrafts displays, while the system can also transmit data to ship based units and ground based units using digital data links. The communications platform of the Sentry is very extensive, while the plane features a very distinctive circular shaped antenna radar dish. Aircraft specs include
4 CFM 56 2A-3 turbofans
35,000 feet maximum altitude
24,000lbs thrust each
460KTS max speed
Supports 18 aircrew
Boeing RC-135W Rivet Joint
The RAF has purchased three of these aircraft that fill the airborne intelligence collection capability role. The final plane will be delivered in 2017. Continual upgrading of the planes capabilities has ensured this aircraft has remained in the forefront of its intelligence gathering role.
The Boeing RC-135W features a collection of sensors that enables its crew, who come from a variety of fields of expertise, to intercept and make use of emissions across the electromagnetic spectrum.
C17 Globe Master III
The Globe Master is a long range strategic heavy lift transport plane used in areas of combat along with humanitarian and peace keeping missions to transport troops and cargo. The aircraft is also used for evacuation missions and airdrop operations. In service worldwide, the aircraft is popular with many countries including the UK and the US.
The C17's design means that it is able to handle high angled steep approaches at low speeds on to short narrow runways in difficult terrain. Due to the C17's up to the minute technology a crew of only three can operate the plane, namely two pilots plus one air load master. The plane has superb manoeuvrability making it ideal for use in areas that are undeveloped.
The C17 can carry heavy equipment including up to three armoured vehicles or thirteen Land Rovers, while three Chinook helicopters or three Apache helicopters can also be carried. One hundred and two personnel may also be carried seated on this carrier. Specs are as follows:
- Four P&W F117-PW-100 turbofans
- 40,400lbs thrust each
- 450 KTS max speed
- 53m long
- 45,000 feet max altitude
- 52m span
- 3 air crew
Airbus A330 MRTT (Voyager)
This aircraft is an air to air refuelling plane whose design is based on the civilian Airbus, while the aircraft is also used for transportation purposes. On board systems to enable air to air refuelling include:
- Airbus military aerial refuelling boom system for appropriately equipped aircraft
- Cobham 805E fuselage refuelling unit for probe equipped receiver aircraft
- Cobham 905E under wing refuelling pods for probe equipped receiver aircraft
- Universal aerial refuelling receptacle system installation for self-in-flight refuelling
The cabin of the Airbus can be modified in order to carry up to three hundred and eighty passengers, while it has a maximum fuel capacity of 245,000lbs without the use of additional fuel tanks. The Airbus can also be used in medical emergencies for evacuation of up to one hundred and thirty stretchered patients. On a typical mission this aircraft could refuel four Tornadoes while still carrying passengers and crew. A330 specs are as follows:
- 2 engines
- 72,000lbs of thrust each
- 493 knots max speed
- 8000nm max range
- 43 tonnes max payload
- 111 tonnes max fuel
- Wingspan 60.3m
- Aircrew 3
Sea King HAR 3/HAR3A Search and Rescue
The RAF has a number of search and rescue aircraft including the Sea King helicopter. Manufactured by Westland the Sea King has been in service since 1978 and features all weather search and navigation equipment. The RAF has twelve Sea King helicopters just now although they are due to be phased out by 2017.
Two Sea Kings are based in six different locations around the UK, while all helicopters are waiting ready to take off within fifteen minutes day time and forty five minutes night time. The Sea King features:
- Superb on board equipment
- Multi band homing system
- Satellite navigation systems
- Search radar
- Avionics suite
- Hydraulic rescue hoist
- Electrically operated rescue hoist
- Connections for incubators or other necessary electrical equipment
- Four crew members
Specifications of the Sea King are:
- Two Rolls Royce Turbo shaft engines
- 1389shp thrust each
- 125kts max speed
- 10000 feet max altitude
- 18.9m span
This aircraft is used by the RAF Red Arrows aerobatic team, while it also used for Weapons and Tactical training plus Fast Jet Pilot Advanced training at RAF Valley. The Hawk can also be used in combat situations, while it is cleared to carry AIM-9L Sidewinder air to air missiles. Hawk Specs are as follows:
- Rolls Royce Turbomeca Adour turbofan
- 48,000 feet max altitude
- 5200lbs thrust
- 550kts max speed
- 9.39m span
- 11.9m long
- 2 aircrew
Training in the Royal Air Force
Those who are interested in joining the RAF may wish to consider the Air Cadets who welcome new enthusiasts between the ages of twelve through to twenty years. The Cadets is sponsored by the RAF in order to introduce would be pilots and those who have an interest in the RAF to the organisation. The Cadets comprises of the Air Training Corps and the Combined Cadet Force. The Cadets are not a recruiting organisation for the RAF but they certainly give youngsters valuable experiences and guidance if they are thinking of joining the RAF. Information regarding what is involved when joining the Cadets can be found at their comprehensive website.
Royal Air Force pilots are among the best in the world which is due to their comprehensive and intensive training. The role taken on by recruits very much depends on their skills and qualifications, while the opportunity to fly super-fast jets, fly helicopters or fly transport aircraft are some of the many roles that are included in a working life in the RAF.
A trained pilot in the RAF may:
- Fly fast jets in air to air combat or ground attack missions
- Fly helicopters to transport troops to conflict areas or retrieve people in search and rescue missions
- Fly support aircraft to bring aid and supplies to many areas
Training begins with a thirty week Initial Officer Training course at the RAF College in Lincolnshire. The course incorporates:
- Leadership and Management skills
- Fitness development
- Military training
- Academic study
- Practical outdoor leadership challenges
Fast Jet Training
This course lasts twenty one months at RAF Linton on Ouse where pilots train by flying the Tucano. Once this course has been passed students will gain their Pilots wings. Next comes flying the Hawk at RAF Valley completing the Tactical Weapons phase of training. Finally pilots move onto the Operational Conversion Unit where they will learn to fly in the aircraft they will use within their specified role.
Rotary training for helicopter pilots involves eighteen months flying single engine Squirrel helicopters and multi-engine Griffin helicopters at RAF Shawbury. Once completed pilots will receive their pilots wings. Once again pilots then transfer to the Operational Conversion Unit where they will train in the type of helicopter they will be flying when employed in their role.
It takes ten months to train to fly multi-engine aircraft, while pilots will train in the Tutor and the King Air at RAFC Cranwell. Once completed pilots are awarded their pilots wings and progress to the Operational Conversion Unit in order to train in their chosen aircraft.