News from 31 Squadron
After four months of demanding yet highly role-specific work in Afghanistan towards the end of last year, the Squadron has been readjusting to UK peacetime operations.
In addition to getting acquainted with the cloudy skies of the UK, 31 Sqn members have been as busy as ever with extra-curricular commitments. The Sqn was delighted to be involved in the visit to Marham by HM The Queen, with some personnel lucky enough to meet Her Majesty and discuss our recent deployment. We have also hosted visits from Tickets for Troops, Help for Heroes, and Epilepsy Action charity representatives, following our fundraising success of last year. On a glorious morning in February we were extremely proud to hand over cheques for a combined total of £45,000 to our selected charities, a sum over and above what we initially dared to imagine possible.
Members from the Sqn visited the Imperial War Museum exhibit War Story: Serving in Afghanistan displays artefacts and photographs from Forces personnel, and currently features contributions from 31 Sqn Op Herrick veterans; indeed we are the only RAF part of that exhibition. An opportunity was taken by most of the Sqn to visit the museum on a no-fly day, and receive a guided tour of the museum’s exhibits.
In other events, an assortment of 27 aircrew and ground crew took part in a week’s Adventurous Training in France. Challenges were provided by way of the coldest temperatures of the season. The aim of course was to develop new skills, and this was achieved not only in the activity itself, but in the leadership and supervisory aspects that were also brought out through the training. Force Development works to ‘reset’ and reacquaint ourselves with our primary roles, bringing all of our Tornado-related skills and qualifications back up to date.
The highlight of the year so far, Exercise Torpedo Focus was a two week flying exercise based in Tucson, Arizona. It’s not often we get the opportunity to load, fly with, and release such a broad spectrum of the Tornado’s weapon inventory, and the detachment was therefore very valuable training for ground crew and aircrew alike. We also executed missions in co-ordination with A-10 and F-16 aircraft from Davis Monthan and Luke Air Force Base respectively. Working with an Airborne Forward Air Controller (FAC(A)) is a scenario we may encounter in Afghanistan, and the training therefore proved extremely valuable to both parties. We were also able to work with these other aircraft types; again something we may be called upon to perform in theatre.
Tucson, as many readers will be aware, has a lot to offer, and three weeks positively flew by in a whirlwind of hard work. When we weren’t busy at work we had the opportunity to visit some of the local places of interest, do some quad biking, and experience the local cuisine. At the end of the detachment the aircrew paid a visit to the Raytheon factory, producers of Paveway weapons, and we were able to appreciate the intricacies of the production line responsible for this hardware. We handed over to IX(B) Sqn at the end of our second flying week having achieved what we intended.
Back in the UK the hard work continues as we prepare for a rigorous examination of our standards and expertise by the Tornado Standardisation Visit team in June, and an Air Combat Training detachment in July.