On 23 August 2019, a total of 22 tri-Service aircrew graduated from the Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS) at RAF Shawbury. The parade celebrated both the graduation of the first 13 pilots to complete their training within the Rotary Wing UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS) as well as the graduation of 9 helicopter Rearcrew. This event was truly a tri-Service celebration and marked yet another important milestone within the UKMFTS, the declaration of Interim Course Capability (ICC).
Since 1 April 2018, the Rotary Wing element of the UKMFTS enterprise at RAF Shawbury has been delivered via a contract with Ascent, who sub-contract to Airbus Helicopters. A modern fleet of 29 Juno (H135) and 3 Jupiter (H145) helicopters fitted with glass cockpit technology and an advanced touchscreen avionics suite support this world-class military flying training solution. Ascent has also delivered state-of-the-art infrastructure, including an Operational Support Building housing advanced Flying Training Devices (FTD), where the trainees learn many of their skills before getting airborne.
Air Marshal Andrew Turner, Deputy Commander Royal Air Force said: “I am delighted to declare ICC for MFTS here at Shawbury today. The training system is state of the art, world-leading and absolutely fit to prepare Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force helicopter aircrew for the challenges that they will face at the front line, at home and around the world. This milestone represents years of committed and dedicated work by Defence and Ascent Flight Training, that everybody should be rightly very proud of. There is much more to be done, but this is another big day for MFTS.”
Capt Craig Carter (AAC), one of the trainee pilots who graduated and will now transition on to the Apache helicopter said: “From a trainee’s perspective, flying the Juno is a huge step forward; these modern helicopters with glass cockpit technology are much closer to what we will fly on the front line and we have benefitted greatly from this world-leading technology.”
Flt Lt Jamie Johnson added: “The course has been challenging and rewarding throughout. The availability of the state-of-the-art infrastructure such as the Flying Training Devices, in addition to the Juno and Jupiter has made the whole process slicker and will undoubtedly better prepare aircrew for the front line.”
The Managing Director of Ascent Flight Training, Mr Tim James said: “Ascent Flight Training is proud to play our part in the UK Military’s flying training system here at RAF Shawbury, where we train and prepare the next generation of helicopter aircrew for active front line service with the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and UK Army. Ascent would like to recognise the partnership at RAF Shawbury between the MOD and Ascent Flight Training with the full support of our industry partners Lockheed Martin, Babcock International, Airbus UK and CAE. Congratulations and good luck to those trainees who are graduating today, and we wish them the very best in their future front line military careers.”
Group Captain Chris Mullen is the Station Commander and Commandant of the Defence Helicopter Flying School. He said: “Today marks a significant step as we graduate the first pilots to the front line and celebrate the second graduation of Rearcrew from the redesigned RW training system under MFTS. This success is due to the collaborative partnership between the MOD and our Defence partners. I would like to congratulate all the graduates today as they move on to the next stage of their career with their respective Services, flying the Apache, Wildcat, Chinook and Puma helicopters.”
What is UKMFTS and what does it cost?
The Ministry of Defence has invested £3.2bn in its new UK Military Flying System (UK MFTS), designed to modernise and transform Defence flying training into a world class, state of the art capability. This new system oversees military flying training in the UK, incorporating the formally independent Flying Training Schools that preceded it under one banner.
In full delivery, UKMFTS will utilise 4 main sites across the UK, to train the next generation of military aircrew for all three Services. These locations are: RAF Valley; RAF Shawbury; RAFC Cranwell (including RAF Barkston Heath); RNAS Culdrose.
At RAF Shawbury and RAF Valley, UKMFTS provides all the training for the Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS) and is also responsible for training new aircrew instructors with the Central Flying School (Helicopters).
UKMFTS is implemented via a contract with Ascent. At RAF Shawbury, Ascent sub-contract to Airbus Helicopters who provide 29 Juno (H135) and 3 Jupiter (H145) helicopters. In addition, Ascent also provide state-of-the-art simulators and other synthetics through its Ground Based Training Equipment provider Lockheed Martin. The infrastructure support is provided in all cases by Babcock.
UKMFTS provides a streamlined and efficient training process using modern aircraft more closely aligned with front line platforms to enable relevant and forward-looking training for trainee pilot and Rearcrew.
The aircraft also provide reliability, lowering maintenance costs, and improving the safety of those operating them.
What are the key advantages of the new training system?
Optimises the time in training for each student, by treating flying training as a system rather than several individual courses.
Closes the capability gap (glass cockpit and modern systems between the aircraft in the training system and those on the front line.
Reduces the overall cost to Defence (increased use of synthetics).
The training programme and associated courseware is under constant review, and opportunities for upgrades and efficiencies are always under consideration. Innovation is key to further development.