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26 January 2005 - Wattisham

Following the recent delivery of the first pair of Apache AH1s to the AAC's future main operating base at Wattisham, initial sorties commenced this week. With 3 Regiment's 662 Squadron now at Middle Wallop on Conversion-To-Type training, it will only be a matter of months before the first Attack unit at Wattisham is flying with its full complement of eight Longbow Apaches. ZJ194 was delivered in from Shawbury on 19/01/2005, followed the next day by ZJ182, also from Shawbury. The pictures here show ZJ194 on a local sortie on 26 January using the callsign 'Bedlam 1'. These deliveries signal the beginning of the end for the AAC Gazelle fleet, with many of them already being retired to storage at Shawbury. Further information about the AAC Apache can be found at http://www.ukapache.com Pictures courtesy Tom McGhee.


25 January 2005 - Cranwell

Flying from Cranwell for a couple of weeks is T-6B Texan II N3000B, providing 'high-ranking officials' the opportunity of a flight or two. The T-6B, first flown on 12 May 2004, features an advanced avionics system with three large colour displays and a head-up display and has six wing-mounted hardpoints, each wing capable of carrying 680 kg of weapons and fuel tanks. Supported by SERCO for the two-week duration, it can only be assumed that it is under evaluation by a number of nations for a light attack/trainer aircraft. Pictures courtesy Guy Harvey.

24 January 2005 - Yeovilton

Lunch-stopping was Polish Air Force An-26 1602 - an unusual visitor for Yeovilton, certainly. Also seen was the blue SHAR, which has gained 'FLY NAVY' under the wings - sure to be seen on the airshow circuit this year. Pictures courtesy Damien Burke.

22 January 2005 - Mildenhall

Coinciding with the airbase's announcement that Air Fete was to be cancelled for the fourth year in succession was a visit by three 31st FW F-16s from Aviano, ironically providing the sort of action that has made Air Fete such a favourite with enthusiasts. All three aircraft arrived on Friday 21 January as "Mingo 1-3" and departed at 0900 hrs the next day. 90-0800/AV is believed to have carried USAFE commander, General Robert Foglesong and MINGO is the callsign always used by the flight of three when he is onboard. Pictures courtesy James Shelbourn.


21 January 2005 - Coltishall

First sighting of 54 Squadron's disbandment 'commemoration' jet - Jaguar GR3A XZ112 sporting the unit's colours and '1916-2005', showing how it nearly made 90 years. The squadron is unlikely to be re-formed in the near future and its best hope is as a reserve number - a sad end for a famous Battle of Britain fighter squadron. Pictures courtesy Michael Hall.


19 January 2005 - Cottesmore

Making an impromptu appearance for the day was a brace of French Navy Super Etendards from 11 Flotille, based at Landivisau. Infrequent visitors to the UK, the pair flew one mission at midday before returning to France late afternoon. With the Royal Navy element of Joint Force Harrier building up, perhaps we'll see more Aeronavale visits in the future - Rafale next, please! Pictures courtesy Guy Harvey.


14 January 2005 - Duxford

Flying again after a two-year restoration is Spitfire T9 PV202/G-CCCA, now painted in striking Irish Air Corps markings as it originally wore when in service in the 1950s. Restored by Historic Flying Ltd., the original rear canopy it had was recently found and re-united with the rest of the airframe - you don't get much more genuine than that! Pictures courtesy Damien Burke.


13 January 2005 - Marham

Plenty of things new at Marham - 13 Squadron is celebrating its 90th anniversary this weekend, with ZA401 (coded XIII) having a special scheme applied - hopefully it'll remain that way for a while! Brimstone missiles are now in service, ZD709 (right) being fitted with a dozen under the fuselage, as well as two pairs of underwing ALARMs, a pair of external tanks, and a pair of BOZ pods for chaff/flare dispensing. Lastly Canberra PR9 XH134 is sporting the 'new' light grey scheme that seems to reach all types, replacing the 'hemp' scheme previously in vogue for larger types. Pictures courtesy Tom McGhee.


13 January 2005 - Coltishall's Arctic scene

Captured at Coltishall were a pair of Arctic-camo 54 Squadron Jaguars, meaning a deployment to Norway must be on the cards - more news soon hopefully. As the squadron is due to disband in April, it will be its last exercise overseas. Pictures courtesy Damien Burke.

10 January 2005 - 5(AC) Squadron commences training at RAF Waddington

Recently reformed 5 (Army Co-operation) Squadron started its initial training to enable it operate the new Airborne Standoff Radar (ASTOR) that comes into service in the next few years.

5 (Army Cooperation(AC)) Squadron is a unique new unit to defence, as is the ASTOR capability. As a jointly manned Royal Air Force unit, 5(AC) Squadron will be manned not just by the RAF, but by a variety of Army cap badges to make a unit of over 300 personnel once fully manned. The Squadron will operate the brand new ASTOR System, which comprises five Sentinel aircraft based on the Bombardier Global Express long-range business jet and eight ground stations that will receive the information from the aircraft, before passing it on to military Commanders. ASTOR will provide defence with a battle winning collection capability through the provision of an airborne mounted radar on the Sentinel, which is linked electronically to its ground stations. Once operational, the system will be able to support Land and Air Headquarters with a near real time picture of the enemy situation on the ground.

All the current personnel at 5(AC) Squadron have been handpicked from across the RAF and Army, and the first stage of training has been eagerly anticipated by all. Cpl Jamie Jones who will man one of the computer terminals in a ground station said, "I have been waiting for an opportunity like this all my career to contribute to a fantastic piece of new technology. All the waiting is now over and we can all get on with contributing to the new course that will teach us how to operate ASTOR."

The Squadron Commander, Wing Commander Bill Hughes, added that, "This is a milestone event and an exciting day for us all. The training we are about to embark upon will enable us bring into service the incredibly powerful ASTOR System that will significantly enhance UK defence for decades to come. I am particularly proud of the way the men and women of the Squadron, who have come from all walks of life across the RAF and Army, have integrated so quickly and professionally to develop the foundations of this unique unit; we are now in a position to start our formal training for ASTOR."

Whilst the initial training has started, the unit itself will not become fully operational for some years to come, although we may well see the 'whisper-jet' Sentinel aircraft grace the skies of Lincolnshire later this year.


9 January 2005 - Brize Norton

First exotic visitor of the New Year was this Gulfstream IV 12-003 of the Turkish Air Force visiting Brize Norton for a night stopover. Based at Ankara, it is operated by 212 Filo which also uses Citations and UH-1Hs. Picture by Mark Rouse.

Archive - 2004

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