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By Howard Wheeldon, Senior Strategist at BGC Partners

12 Jan 12. With the first Qualified Flying Instructor Course now commenced Ascent (a 50/50 joint venture partnership between Lockheed Martin and Babcock International) has taken a formidable step forward toward achieving initial course capability. Working in combination with the Directorate of Flying Training of No 22 (Training) Group and the MFTS Integrated Project Team of Ministry of Defence DE&S confirmation that the first ‘Ascent’ run course has now commenced should speed the pace of the well designed Military Flying Training System (MFTS) development.

The concept of MFTS was designed from inception to address the tri-service needs of all military flying training through almost the entire process. The ‘Ascent’ built training facilities at RAF Valley located within the Moran Building now house both the MFTS operation and 4 (R) Squadron which operates the new BAE TMk2 AJT Hawk. Having seen the facilities at first hand I have been very impressed as to how the whole process is now moving forward and meeting the initial objectives set.

Another very interesting aspect is that MFTS opens the door not only for pure UK military flying training needs but also for the training of international combat jet pilots in both current and next generation fighter aircraft such as Typhoon and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Both aircraft mentioned here have extremely high levels of training demand that require Lead-In Fighter Training (LIFT) training capability second to none. As complex, integrated multi role combat jets these aircraft are reliant upon precise systems management capability requiring that pilots have significantly greater knowledge about the aircraft and weapons systems.

Positioning MFTS around the TMk2 AJT Hawk platform along with the entire Ascent led fast jet flying training system (simulators, mission and flight planning, systems management, network based synthetic training within simulators and flying training devices) it seems to me that by virtue of design capability the UK has positioned itself as a world leader in both the technology and concept of fast jet training. This could bode very well from both an international and export perspective particularly in terms of TMk2 AJT Hawk acting as the lead in trainer aircraft of choice for both the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Typhoon in future years.

The primary interest in producing this paper is to discuss fast jet training and of how in an age of cuts to meet the challenge to providing current and future generations of combat jet pilots with a holistic based training system that can meet the entirety of physical and mental challenges required. However before opening that door it is worth mentioning here that the embodiment of the MFTS training momentum has come at a most interesting time for RAF Valley following the standing down last November of the historic 19 (Reserve) Squadron (from a historic perspective this squadron was the first to receive the Mk 1 Spitfire in 1938) and the standing up of the equally historic 1V (Reserve) Squadron that somewhat ironically celebrate its centenary during 2012. With a motto ‘in futurum videre’ [‘to see into the future’] I would add here that it is apt for the re-born 1V Squadron that with its new 28 strong fleet of TMk2 Hawk aircraft will be taking the flying aspect of UK fast jet training forward through the next generation.

Awarded in June 2008 the £6bn Public Private Partnership awarded to ‘Ascent’ included full infrastructure build-out at RAF Valley. The award requires that ‘Ascent’ be responsible for driving forward UK military flying training over the next twenty-five years. Working alongside its partners and 1V(R) Squadron and with a mission statement to produce sufficient highly motivated, capable, agile and adaptable military aviators Ascent will soon have responsibi

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