41 Tes Update

Despite the best efforts of ‘Stormageddon’, the draw down of the Tristar fleet, and lots of other conspirational factors, 2014 is proving to be a very productive period for 41(R) Test and Evaluation Squadron. All the team seen to be getting used to the ‘split team’ operating model as the majority of Typhoon Flight headed (or attempted to; more to follow…) off to sunnier climes, leaving Tornado Flight plus a few stragglers to deliver capability in the  UK.

Stormageddon and the race to the United States:
The meticulously designed plan to see the TES Typhoons leave in early February was compromised by a number of external influences which were almost impossible to predict; the UK experienced unprecedented storms in the south west, which precluded any long distance flight over the Atlantic. The wave heights around Lajes were reported as ‘off the scale’, a commonly overused description that, in this case, was actually valid as waves exceed 20 metres! Once the weather had finally subsided, the last remaining Tristar in the air force was clearly in no rush to escort them over the pond.

High Rider:
Eventually the trail left (only 4 weeks late), and despite a small delay in Bermuda (which was a terrible hardship for all concerned), it went relatively smoothly, enabling the Typhoons to arrive at China Lake in good order. Once established in the Western US, the Typhoons set about testing lots of new equipment, and making up for lost time. Fortunately there was still a modicum of respite at the weekends when we could maintain our currency for the important advanced skills maintained by 41(R) Sqn; winter sports at Mammoth! Perhaps the most notable Trial centred on the pioneering work carried out with the Lightening II aircraft, allowing early  interoperability testing to be completed.

Notwithstanding the troubles to deploy out to the US, the return Trail home was less problematic (possibly after we sacked the Officer responsible for the outbound leg), with the notable exception that there is still one jet stuck at Lajes. Spare a thought for the people who have been left on the tropical island guarding the aircraft since April. It must be awful for them.

Closer to home:
The Tornado half of the TES have quietly been coolly continuing their business in the UK, helping with an urgent commitment to test Brimstone and ASRAAM some novel target sets in order to help deliver some interesting capabilities, plus have tested a new software avionics standard. The Typhoon stragglers (those that didn’t get a US invite) have not been sleeping at all restfully, suffering from an acute case of FOMO* whilst carrying out the early testing of the new Tranche 2 P1Eb aircraft at BAe Systems Warton. This early testing of P1Eb by the TES in conjunction with BAeS should smooth the RAF introduction of our most advanced version of Typhoon, with  Paveway 4 capability, later this year.

Coming and goings:
During this period we have seen a substantial change of personnel, some for the better. In no particular order the TES would like to extend a warm welcome to:

Major Travis ‘Snakeye / CHiPS’ Winslow, our US exchange Pilot; Flt Lt Alex ‘Youngy’ Young, who joins us from IX(B) Sqn to be our new Tornado QWI(N); Flt Lt Nick ‘Jonesy’ Jones, Flt Lt Jim ‘Stokesy’ Stokes and Flt Lt Scott ‘Dott’ Cotton to be our new Trials Management Officers; Flt Lt Jude ‘Just call me Jude’ Clark, and finally Miss Laura Bushfield to our Operational Analysis (OA) cell.

Unfortunately, manning would only allow us new members at the expense of some of our more established personnel. Therefore, we wish the following personnel our best wishes as they leave us for pastures new:

Sqn Ldr Mike (Judy) Garland received a well deserved promotion and almost immediate deployment to Afganistan with IX(B) Sqn; Sqn Ldr Chris ‘Far’ Morris who also was promoted to a job at MOD Abbey Wood; Chris ‘Beatbox’ Beattie and Chris ‘Wooly’ Wooliscroft from our OA team.

Finally, it would be unfair not to mention Sqn Ldr Andrew ‘Tids’ Tidmarsh who joined and then promptly left the TES during this period. Tids managed to arrive on the TES, fly to the US ahead of the delayed Typhoons, spend 4 weeks topping up his tan and then leave us to take up a post with the Army down south. He will be missed (he may have done some work at some point).

Going forward:
The next few months should see the TES carry out and report on more than 10 flight trials, field five different standards of Aircraft and test a multitude of weapons and systems. You can expect us to be present at CQWI and also all deliver briefings at Tornado and Typhoon MOBs prior to our next deployment to the US. We also look forward to hosting the Swedish Air Force and their Gripens this summer at Coningsby.