Following on from IX(B) Squadron’s success, it was the turn of 31 Squadron to travel to Gibraltar for Exercise GOLDROCK. The focus; Air Combat Training (ACT), part of a squadron’s continuous training.
In planning the exercise the idea is to make the scenarios as realistic as possible by allowing the crews to practice both ‘Defensive’ and ‘Offensive’ roles. The detachment began with local area and academic briefings before taking to the sky for Defensive and Offensive, Basic Fighter Manoeuvres (BFMs). Defensive; how to defend against an enemy and turn a losing situation into a winning one. Offensive; how to achieve a winning engagement and hold on to it. For many of the junior Squadron members this was their first detachment and first experience of full up air combat in the Tornado.
It quickly became apparent that, like the weather at home in the UK, the weather in Gibraltar can be just as changeable. Clear blue skies can be replaced by rolling banks of fog or low clouds streaming off the top of the rock in a matter of minutes. Tail winds can be encountered at both ends of the runway simultaneously and birds have been seen to fly backwards across the airport, apparently! Despite the weather causing a slight disruption to the flying programme the squadron managed to work around the weather, ready to complete the relevant stages in preparation for week two.
During the second week we progressed from the BFMs and 1v1 tactics to 2v1 tactics, flying and fighting as mutually supporting pairs against a single adversary. Like the previous week, the exercises took place in airspace off the Moroccan coast with a backdrop of North Africa in sight of Tangiers.
Despite the high rate of flying, superbly supported by the 31 Sqn engineers, the Goldstars still found time to take advantage of the excellent Force Development opportunities available at Gibraltar. These included various watersports, monkey spotting, climbing and tours of the unique military history found around and inside the Rock. The middle weekend provided 31 Sqn with the ideal opportunity to say goodbye to two of its stalwarts, Senior Engineering Officer (SEngO), Sqn Ldr Jen Robinson and WO Martyn Bonner. Sqn Ldr Robinson will soon take up a Personal Staff Officer role at RAF High Wycombe while Martyn is leaving the RAF after over 30 years of service to hone his gardening skills. The new SEngO, Sqn Ldr Geoff Platt and new WO, Tom Emmett, can now feel fully assured that they have joined a fine group of engineers and will be warmly welcomed into the Goldstars.