XI Squadron 2011 Highlights and 2012 Plans
Although already well documented, its worth reflecting on the achievements of the Typhoon Force in 2011 as we look forward to another busy year in 2012. Last year was undoubtedly a year of firsts. Everyone began to spool back up after the Christmas break and the flying really picked up in February with the Squadron taking part in Exercise After Eight, which was organised and run by the members of 8 Squadron, RAF Waddington.
The Exercise not only provided vital training for the battle space managers aboard the AWACS but also allowed XI Squadron to work back up to bona-fide 4-ship operations. Over the course of the 2 weeks, the Squadron got the opportunity to work under high-fidelity scenarios with a link 16 picture provided by the AWACS and regained core 4-ship currency. All in all a good start to the New Year and a very useful one bearing in mind what was in store for the Squadron in the following months.
During March, the news was dominated by the situation in Libya. Once the Prime Minister first floated the idea of a no-fly zone over Libya, the Squadron was rife with rumours that Typhoon would deploy; during the evening of 17 March, a Warning Order was issued and RAF Coningsby came to life preparing equipment and personnel for the first operational deployment of Typhoon. XI Squadron was handed the challenge of becoming the first Squadron to take Typhoon on operations and the preparation for Op ELLAMY had begun.
An advance party from the Squadron deployed to Gioia Del Colle, Italy on 20 March in support of 10 aircraft. Over the following days, these 31 personnel worked round the clock to initiate the UK input to the No-Fly Zone and on 23 March the Main Party arrived, bringing XI Squadron to its full complement.
Over the course of the next four months, the Squadron not only continued to provide vital air policing over the skies of Libya but also established the Typhoon as a capable multirole fighter, with the first operational Enhanced Paveway II being dropped from a Typhoon on the 12 April.
Shortly after the Squadron had returned from Italy, Wg Cdr Attridge bid farewell to the members of XI Squadron and handed over the reins to Wg Cdr Rich Wells.
During the final quarter of the year, the Squadron sent three pilots out to Al Dhafra in the U.A.E to take part in ATLC (Advanced Tactical Leadership Course.) As always the exercise provided excellent training for all involved, as well as a good tan to bring back to the UK during October.
The start of 2012 has proved to be a busy time for the Squadron, planning and running Exercise Double Diamond, 2 weeks of high intensity air defence, air interdiction and multi-role training. All 5 Typhoon Squadrons were involved, as well as Tornados, Hawks, AWACS and Falcons from Cobham Aviation. Ex Double Diamond brought invaluable training, enabling the Squadron to practise a variety of disciplines, and allowing the Typhoon Force as a whole to operate as 8-ship formations supporting Tornado ground attack missions.
Next in store for XI will be Exercise Magic Carpet which will be taking place throughout the month of February in Oman. Magic Carpet will again provide an excellent opportunity for the Squadron to continue to build on its multi-role skill set and work up the Squadron’s newer pilots. (Once again winter tan optional).
After Magic Carpet the Squadron will see another turnover of manning, as several of our more experienced pilots move on to new challenges, making way for a fresh influx from the OCU. In the near term, the Squadron will be bidding farewell to Flt Lt Guy Lockwood who will be hopping over the pond on exchange with the United States Air Force, don’t forget your skis Guy, they manicure their pistes over there!
2012 looks set to continue at a fast pace for the Typhoon Force and XI Squadron in particular, with the challenges of providing Quick Reaction Alert over London throughout the Olympics, continuing to defend the Falkland Islands over the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War, and training up a new generation of front-line Typhoon pilots. It will be a busy year for us all – bring it on!