Exercise Tigers Sporran

Prior to deploying on Op TORAL, each flight deploying will be required to complete 45 hours flying as part of their pre-deployment training.

As Kabul is an urban environment with controlled airspace around it, this normally takes the form of utilising Helicopter Landing Sites (HLSs) around London and other notable cities in the South. Not so for 230 Sqn C Flight. Having spent the early part of their PDT flying around the North West of England they decided, for the latter part, to hop over the border to Scotland. The aim was to sweep up any outstanding qualifications for the flight members prior to deployment and for OCC Flight, Sqn Ldr Gower, to conduct his Combat Ready check en-route to Scotland.

Early February saw the flight with a contingent of Engineers, SES personnel, Ops Assistants along with a detachment of refuellers from Tactical Supply Wing, deploy on Ex TIGER’S SPORRAN, initially to the formerly RAF Leuchars. The route to Scotland took advantage of, amongst other things, the chance for some community outreach. Flt Lt Ellie Hoogewerf was dropped off at St Mary’s School in Melrose where she spoke to forms 6, 7 & 8 about her career in the RAF.

The second and third days saw an onwards move to forward base out of Fort George and a round-robin of mountain flying around Fort William and airborne gunnery on Tain ranges. The mountain flying provided particularly spectacular views with the scenery coated with a liberal dusting of snow. The routes flown down the ‘Great Glen’, both to and from Oban Airport for fuel were made even more enjoyable for the crews by Flt Lt Macgillivray adding tour guide to his list of attributes, whilst plotting routes that took in such landmarks as the Commando Memorial.

Meanwhile, Sgt Mcleish was putting not only the flights remaining crewmen through their airborne gunnery paces, but also with the Station Commanders approval, found time to provide several of our hosts at Fort George from 2 Scots, the opportunity to fire their very similar GPMG, from a very unfamiliar platform in the form of the Puma HC2. This produced some big smiles from the soldiers who thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of this new experience. Their remaining comrades in 2 Scots weren’t left entirely on the ground, as both aircraft took all opportunities in the week to provide familiarisation flights for them.
Day 4 unfortunately saw the weather significantly worsen and the planned Judgmental Training sorties had to be pushed to the following day at the loss of some promising Electronic Warfare training. The aircraft and crews made a dash back to Leuchars in a window between the bad weather. The support element however were not so lucky. Not only did they have to fight blizzards but a break-down of one of the Land rovers made an already arduous journey so much more so.

The following day saw sufficient improvement in the weather to catch up the Judgemental Training missed out the previous day. The valleys, woods and improvised landing sites of RAF Spadeadam played host to a number of scenarios that required the crews to put into practice their training and more so for the crewmen manning the GPMG in the cabin their judgement (the clue is in the name) in their escalation of the use of force.
All of which is observed by members of the Army Legal Advice team who then provide debriefings for the crew on their actions. As the training concluded one crew departed back to Benson with an aircraft leaving the other to return the following day having squeezed in some ad hoc EW training.

The route home for the remaining aircraft was designed not only to provide excellent training for the crews but also an enjoyable trip home for those support personnel on board. As such routing low level along Ladybower reservoir, famous for its use as the rehearsal area for the ‘Dambusters’ raid, was an absolute must. The views with the cabin doors open produced smiles all round from those on board. And a rare opportunity to land in the grounds of the nearby Chatsworth House was taken to the amazement of the tourists viewing the historic property.

The aircraft and crews returned home to Benson having achieved almost everything that had been planned at the beginning of the detachment and plenty extra that had not.

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