After an eventful summer, XI squadron was looking forward to it’s time running up to Christmas. We had the delights of Ex JOINT WARRIOR to look forward to in the beautiful Vale of York along with our own exercise DOUBLE DIAMOND in December. 

Instead, the Royal Air Force’s premier Typhoon Squadron were deployed to sunny Cyprus on Op LUMINOUS leaving our lucky comrades from 3(F) Squadron to pick up double Q for us. We’ve also had 6 people depart from the glorious XI Squadron, including a boss and an IntO, but with the addition of 4 new pilots and the return of Sqn Ldr Al Allsop from the South Atlantic.

XI Squadron hosted its annual ladies guest night at Branston Hall. Organised in toto by Flt Lt Owen ‘Thompo’ Thompson, the evening saw a much delayed dining out for Sqn Ldr Matt ‘D’Aubs’ D’Aubyn and a pre-emptive one for Wg Cdr Rich ‘Wellsa’ Wells. We also saw Flt Lt Dan ‘Daisy’ Hayes, Flt Lt Thompson and Flt Lt James ‘Pearcie’ Pearce declared as Combat Ready after a busy first few months with XI Squadron. A superb evening was had by all due to a very accommodating host with a flowing bar, although a few people were mildly disappointed when a piano duel fell through after a double booking of pianists.

As the dust settled over the weekend following the dining in night, few would have expected to be in Cyprus the following week. As the news of Chemical Weapon use in Syria flooded the newspapers, XI Squadron returned to work with eager anticipation. Sure enough, the call was received and on the 29th of August all hands went to action stations. After cancelling 29(R) Squadron’s holiday in the Mediterranean, we hijacked their trail plans and deployed 6 aircraft and a number of personnel, including 12 pilots, to RAF Akrotiri in record time. After getting the engineers out to Cyprus shortly after the aircraft arrived, XI Squadron was ready to do whatever was required.

XI Squadron settled into a routine of Q in 40 degree heat with no air conditioning! It wasn’t particularly comfortable but the wake boarding club at the snugs beach out there did their best to cool us all down. Once training flying was cleared in Cyprus, the pilots started to rack up the hours due to a Tanker being airborne everyday. With 3(F) Squadron not yet at ATLC, Cyprus became the place to be for XI Squadron to fly full stop! HMS Dragon also saw her 6 month tour extended by several months in the Mediterranean for Op LUMINOUS and were keen to work with XI Squadron. As a result, pilots saw several air-maritime integration sorties which culminated in HMS Dragon hosting a few XI Squadron personnel for a tour of the ship and most importantly, the Officers’ Ward Room!

On the 24th September, Wg Cdr Wells had his last flight and handed over the XI Squadron baton to Wg Cdr Chris ‘Laydo’ Layden who joins us from his year of Staff College at RAF Shrivenham. For October, XI Squadron saw some more good flying out in Cyprus providing Close Air Support training with ground troops and even more maritime training with our French friends in the Chevalier Paul frigate. The routine of flying and Q continued while XI Squadron, as part of 121 Expeditionary Air Wing, saw several senior visits including the Typhoon Force Commander Air Cdre Gary Waterfall, the Joint Force Air Component Commander Air Cdre Phil Beach and Commander Joint Operations Lieutenant-General David Capewell. At the time of print however, XI Squadron are expecting to come home at the end of November to enjoy a few weeks of regular training flying in the run up to Christmas and the pilots’  lunch.

Unfortunately XI Squadron has lost a few people. Firstly we said goodbye to Flt Lt Mark ‘Schlongy’ Long who heads to 29(R) Squadron to train some more talent for XI. We wish him the best over on the other side and look forward to seeing him on Q! Flt Lt Giles ‘Crofty’ Croft has also disappeared into the depths of 22 Gp on the Hawk T2 at RAF Valley. We shall miss him at Coningsby but we’re sure he will be a huge contribution to IV(R) Squadron. We also lose Major Derek ‘Ajax’ Syswerda our American exchange officer. He has been sent back across the pond to become an instructor on the USAFs latest fighter aircraft the Joint Strike Fighter. We shall miss the American banter on Squadron and we can only apologise to the USAF for introducing him to alcohol and cigarettes! Flt Lt Andrea ‘Spy’ Holt has gone to RAF High Wycombe and taken her recce briefs with her. How are we supposed to remember British Racing Dream Machines now?! Our devoted OpsO Flt Lt Stuart ‘Stu’ Hicken has gone to Al Udeid leaving us to learn very very quickly how to write a flying programme. How did you make it so effortless Stu?! Finally we lost our OC, Wg Cdr Wells, to a desk in RAF High Wycombe. You will be missed Sir, try not to get too ground happy!

Despite our loses, we gained 4 new pilots. Capt Curtis ‘Cyprus’ Switzer replaces Ajax as the American exchange officer. Flt Lt Mark ‘Suggs’ Sugden and Flt Lt Scott ‘no-yes’ Noyes join us after 5 long years at RAF Valley on the Hawk. Finally, fresh off of the QWI course, Flt Lt Martin ‘Marti’ Geraghty joins us who is already enjoying ‘the quiet life’ on XI Squadron. All should be combat ready before Christmas so hopefully an XI Squadron patch can be included under the Christmas tree!

The next few months should see XI Squadron settling into its normal training rhythm. Not forgetting the highlight of January though, a Middle Eastern training exercise, where XI should see some live drops and a bit more winter sun. Let’s hope we find a bit of time for a social………

Ociores Acrioresque Aquilis