78 squadron

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20 years

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Due to defence cuts 78 Squadron will disband on 30 September 2014.

A sad day. It only leaves two ex-Halibag squadrons. Shiny 10 an 51.

78 Sqn suffered the highest losses of all Halifax Squadrons and the third highest losses in Bomber Command

Original post

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7 years 2 months

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It is a sad day 78 Sqn flew 70 of my cadets this summer

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13 years 4 months

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Not so much a 'defence cut' as the Merlin helicopters are being handed over to a re-forming 846 Naval Air Squadron of the Royal Navy.

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7 years 9 months

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So it's a 'defence sidestep', then, is it? In a sane world, the RAF would have kept their Merlins, and the Navy would have got some new ones. Mind you, in a sane world, maybe we wouldn't need them in the first place.

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one my fathers old squadrons, he flew with them during the Suez campaign on the Vickers Valetta.

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14 years

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likewise, my dad was with them in 44/ 45. they gave us a final flypast this afternoon at work (booker). a sad day for me.

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So it's a 'defence sidestep', then, is it? In a sane world, the RAF would have kept their Merlins, and the Navy would have got some new ones. Mind you, in a sane world, maybe we wouldn't need them in the first place.

All the RAF / RN helicopters operate under a joint command structure anyway, so yes, a sidestep is a good way of describing it really. I'm not sure about a 'sane world' but one thing that the MOD has plenty of, thanks to a decade or more in Iraq and Afghanistan, is transport helicopter lift (if not equivalent airframe numbers); more Chinooks and Merlin, fewer Sea Kings and Wessex...

...the MOD can only spend what the public can afford in taxes and the government can afford in votes!

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Creaking Door,
Not quite. JHC "run" the RAF SH force, the AAC and the RN CHF. The RN retains full control of ASW/ASuW/ASACS helicopters, and the remaining SAR cabs are split between the RAF/RN. The original plan was quite simple; the RAF get an additional 24 CH47s and give the RN the Merlin Mk3/3a to replace the CHF Sea Kings. Therefore, it was expected that 28/78 would both re-equip with Chinook. However, the SDSR saw the new CH47 buy reduced to 14 - hence not enough to keep 2 numberplates.

Oh, and the Wessex has been gone a long time....Lazy 8, in a sane world the RAF would never have had the Merlin forced on it......

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I stand corrected. Wessex gone, Sea King going.....but we still have (older) Puma???

Why would the RAF not want Merlin?

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CD,
The RAF never wanted the Merlin because, in simple terms, it's not a Chinook. It is as big, costs more to buy and run and carries a third of the payload. Yes, it is quiet, smooth and well equipped with modern(ish) avionics but it simply doesn't have the Chinook's power, payload or flexibility. The MoD were told to buy Merlin for the RAF as a purely political diktat in the mid 90s, that mistake has now been corrected. Despite the shortcomings of the aircraft,the RAF crews have done yeoman service in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghan and their efforts need to be recorded and appreciated. Re Puma 2, in its new guise it will likely match Merlin performance in high Density Altitude conditions - it's truly a step change in capability. I'm sad to see 78 go - happy 'mini tours' flying the Chinook in the Falklands in the late 90s.....

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The MoD were told to buy Merlin for the RAF as a purely political diktat...

Well, isn't following political diktat pretty-much what the MOD is for?

I can't understand how we managed to lose Westlands into the bargain!

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purely political...shortcomings...lose Westlands.

In 1961 newly-consolidated WAL had Belvedere, Rotodyne and S.56 Westminster, to which it then added a licence for CH-47B as WG.1/11, and asked its only Customer what it would care to buy. Nothing from you, bar some SAR, was RAF's answer and 15 US-build CH-47B were ordered in 1967, to supplement 48 Puma ordered in 1965, Hayes-assembled, largely French-built: it was these that RAF did not want and were a political diktat (context: balancing the Anglo-French deal which included Jaguar, AFVG and the first Yeovil design to find favour - to be Lynx). RAF CH-47B was chopped 1/68; 33 US-built CH-47C were ordered in 1978. The world flew on US choppers; WAL existed on licenced Sea Kings.

France/FRG/Italy/UK by 1983-ish chose to try to enter large choppers: WAL joined NHI (France/FRG/Italy/Neths.) to develop (to be) NH90; they also took an S-70 licence, and explored WG.34 from mid-1978, collaborating with Agusta from 11/79: bet-hedging for RAF Medium Lift. All this, plus Corporate financial pain caused the 1985 "Westland Affair" which undermined Thatcher's Cabinet. The outcome was: GKN saved WAL; Agusta happily stayed in NH90+ EH.101+ CH-47 (Meridionali licence); UK+Italy funded (to be) Merlin as broadly equal Buyers (by adding RAF+RN roles). Merlin and NH90 both then drifted and bloated broadly in alignment for 2 decades, as neither team comprehended Systems Integration. UK reduced Yeovil to "touch labourer" by appointing US Systems teams. NH90 and Merlin now do their jobs and win customers, so be modest in criticism. For that which we now task RAF, CH-47s are what is wanted.

UK has not "lost" Westland: (Agusta) Finmeccanica is willing to take on the >20 year finance cycle of new kit, where GKN saw itself as a structures supplier. Its time as owner of WAL has led to its current stature as a major global supplier; Yeovil has involvement in more products than ever in its chequered rotary existence.

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With the new HC6's the RAF will have 60 Chinooks in service and that this time there are only 3 Squadrons operating the Chinook 7-18-27 so in real terms the RAF could Keep both 28 & 78 number plates operating 20 air-frame between them at Benson or at this time 18 Squadron under takes the OCU role as well as operation's so 78 could have taken the OCU role for Chinook it is important that the RAF keep as many units as possible as there is a lot of people stuck waiting for a post for promotion

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...UK+Italy funded (to be) Merlin as broadly equal Buyers (by adding RAF+RN roles)...

Adding RN and RAF orders is sixty-six.....total Italian buy was, what, twenty?

And isn't the major shareholder of Finmeccanica the Italian government? I can't help feeling that after, presumably, funding (through sales) the lion's share of Merlin development, the United Kingdom finds itself in the position of being forced to buy more AgustaWestland helicopters under the threat of the closure of Yeovil?

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...the United Kingdom finds itself in the position of being forced to buy more AgustaWestland helicopters under the threat of the closure of Yeovil?

There won't be another major UK military helicopter buy for decades. Training and SAR are being privatised, and the current fleets of Wildcat/Merlin (RN), Wildcat/Apache (updated/remanufactured) (AAC) and Chinook/Puma 2 (RAF) will soldier on for a long, long time to come, so your point is a moot one really.

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Just to refine the comments above re Chinooks please.
Firstly the WG1 and later WG11 was an original Bristol based design ,not a Chinook ,using Up to four Gnome engines and with options for short/long cabin section. After the government showed no interest some of the key design team went to Boeing and helped develop the later Chinook variants.
Agusta did indeed have a licence for the CH-47C Chinook but assembled a lot more than 20. Many were exported...Iran,Egypt, Morocco etc...a few even to the US Army following the Iran embargo. Meanwhile the UK ordered then cancelled its Chinooks before eventually ordering again......the rest is history but if only the politicians had ordered the WG11 in the first place they would have had a helicopter with better performance than the .Chinook which might also have challenged in export sales. Finally the government could have shared on the NH90 with production at Yeovil but pulled out in favour of soldiering on with the Puma,now upgraded...Ah well!

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The BBC report quoted £300 million to convert the Merlin rotors to folding ones for the RN. Gosh. These things don't come cheap.

Edit...it's actually £330 million for 25 aircraft. The Life Sustainment Programme. A bit more than just changing the rotor head, obviously.

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Blimey! Buying the helicopters in the first place didn't cost much more than that!

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heli #16 The Westland V.107 licence was 4/10/61, to utilise "to the fullest extent" the tandem rotor experience of Bristol Helicopter Divn, which WAL had acquired 23/3/60. Nothing came of it, in part because WAL inserted Twin Gnome to create Wessex HC.2. WG1 was schemed in 1962, WG11 in 1965. Shall we say that WAL "sampled" V.107.