In written expert evidence to the UK’s Defence Select Committee, Wg Cdr SJ Orwell (ret’d) claimed student fast-jet pilots should instead be sent to Australia as it operates the same BAE Systems-developed Hawk T2 (designated the Hawk Mk 127 LIF in Royal Australian Air Force service) training aircraft, and its procedures match the RAF.
Wg Cdr Orwell said Advanced Fast Jet Training (AFJT) in the UK had been hit by engine problems which has led to the lack of availability of Hawk T2 aircraft. As a result, the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) is considering sending pilots to the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training Program (ENJJPT), which is carried out at 80th Flying Training Wing (FTW) at Sheppard Air Force Base (AFB) in Texas.
In damning criticism, Orwell told the committee: “The one thing that should not happen is to allow the MOD to use ENJJPT.”
He said in written evidence: “The problem with the training at ENJJPT is that it is based on the United States Air Force philosophy of training. At ENJJPT the flying is strictly regimented. Students must comply exactly with the manual’s way of flying. If they do, they pass the course, if not they fail.
“Added to this, each sortie (apart from navigation) is flown in an allocated ‘box’ of airspace. No other aircraft is allowed into that airspace and therefore the student is not required or trained to maintain a lookout. Simulated emergencies are not practiced in the air as they are not part of the syllabus which must be strictly adhered to. The result is a graduate that is devoid of flexibility.
“This works for the USAF but is the exact opposite to the way the RAF conducts pilot training. We emphasise the need for flexibility. Students, dual or solo, fly in free airspace and are therefore taught and required to demonstrate how to maintain a good lookout for other aircraft, which is a skill vital to an operational pilot. They are also expected to adapt the sortie profile to the weather conditions to enable the aim of the exercise to be met.
“In addition, most of the sorties will contain a no-notice practice emergency, which as often as not will require a diversion to the nearest airfield that will probably not be the home base. Solo students are also allowed to fly to lower weather limits than at ENJJPT and to use airfields other than the home base. At the end of the course the Final Handling Test examines both the students’ flying skills and their response to unplanned injects by the examiner. All of this is designed to produce a mindset that reacts to and deals with changing circumstances; a pre-requisite for any operational pilot.”
Orwell, who served as a flight instructor at ENJJPT, was giving evidence to an ongoing investigation by the UK Parliament into aircraft procurement in the UK.
He added: “The RAF sent four students per year to ENJJPT. When the students returned to the UK the intention was for them to fly a 30-hour orientation course and then go to weapons training. Unfortunately, the ENJJPTS training did not meet the entry standards for Tactical Weapons Training and the students had to complete almost all the RAF’s Advanced Fast-Jet Training syllabus to meet the standard. As a result, the UK withdrew from ENJJPT after a few years. Nothing will have changed. Sending students to ENJJPT will therefore not alleviate the problems caused by the shortage of Hawk aircraft.
“The ENJJPT solution is attractive because it is simplistic and probably the cheapest option. The fact that it will not solve the problem and end up as a waste of resources, student training time and taxpayers’ money will, on past evidence, be ignored by the MOD. This must not be allowed to happen.
“A better solution would be to investigate sending students to the Royal Australian Air Force for Advanced Fast-Jet Training. They use a version of the Hawk similar to the RAF’s T2 and their philosophy towards training is akin to ours. On completion of Advanced Fast-Jet Training the students could either return to the UK for the tactical weapons phase (carried out on the Hawk that they are already qualified on) or, if it was found suitable, complete the Australian weapons course.”