30.10.23 PM Martin Payne

Inside RAF Brize Norton’s Enterprise Day

A primary objective for the Coachmakers, along with many other Livery Companies, is to support our armed forces. When I first became a Coachmaker, we were affiliated to RAF No 10 Squadron, writes PM Martin Payne. When the squadron was stood down (to remerge some years later), the Livery switched its allegiance to RAF Brize Norton. The Livery has enjoyed many visits to RAF Brize Norton but these have often been flying visits (literally), involving in-flight refuelling sorties with VC10s and Lockheed TriStar. Brize Norton is home to a vast array of service utilities that are designed to support the whole operation of the Royal Air Force.

The Royal Air Force doesn’t just fly aeroplanes, there is a significant responsibility that underpins that capability. The Master was recently invited to Brize Norton’s Enterprise Day to ‘get up close’ and talk to the teams who support the activities, however, she was already committed to another engagement and so I was pleased to represent her on this occasion; it was an invitation too good to miss.

Brize Norton is home to the RAF’s Air Mobility Force, encompassing strategic and tactical air transport, and air-to-air refuelling (AAR) forces, as well as being host to many lodger and reserve units. With its mixed fleet of aircraft, RAF Brize Norton provides rapid global mobility in support of UK overseas operations and exercises, as well as AAR support for fast jet aircraft, both on operations and in support of UK homeland defence.

On arrival the Station Commander, Group Captain Claire O’Grady, set the scene. We were allocated a host who would take us to each activity and explain their respective functions. The day saw elements from both the air wing and air base come together to demonstrate how the whole force at RAF Brize Norton works together within with the overall theme of ‘how the enterprise fights from the home base’.

Exhibitors from the station were set up within a cordoned section of the airfield with visitors hosted by personnel taken in groups to meet various units and have the opportunity to tour some of the Air Mobility Force aircraft based at RAF Brize Norton, including an Atlas C Mk.1 (A400M pictured) and Globemaster (C-17 pictured). Units which work closely with the aircraft were set up inside them, showcasing how they work hand-in-hand with the aircrew during missions.

Tactical Medical Wing’s mission is to train, equip, and deploy Royal Air Force medical service personnel as Force Elements in support of operations and exercises, and to provide a quality worldwide aeromedical evacuation service for defence. What is shown inside the C17 is a typical medical setup to demonstrate how the RAF works with the flying crew and its NHS partners for onward transmission of patients.

Flight Lieutenant Laura Price described the set up inside the C17 and the co-operation that is given to the RAF particularly when they are away from Brize Norton.

Fire Service Delivery for RAF Brize Norton is an important factor for airfield safety.

Weighing in at an impressive 42,000kg, is the Oshkosh Striker airfield rescue and fire fighting (ARFF) vehicle. The Oshkosh striker is set to replace the Major Foam Vehicle (MFV), and the MPRV will replace the smaller Rapid Intervention Vehicle (RIV). One of the most impressive new features, is the extendable water/foam/dry powder delivery system called a High Reach Extendable Turret (HRET). Additionally, the turret has an aircraft skin-penetrating nozzle (ASPN), this allows fire-fighters to introduce a sprinkler system into the aircraft prior to breathing apparatus teams entering to carry out rescue operations. These innovative approaches to fire fighting will increase effectiveness, intervention and ultimately create survivable conditions sooner, reducing risk to personnel.

The RAF even has a dog handling unit. The spaniel, pictured here, has reached the end of her working life and is looking for a new home. There had been a ‘pause’ in her redeployment until a replacement could be found. The spaniel was involved in drug and explosive tracking. Given her age, she was very successful in the job she did.

Air to Air in Flight refuelling has been the task of No 10 Squadron. When the Livery was first associated with No 10 Squadron VC10s were used as donor tankers. Lockheed TriStars were then used for a short while until the A330 Voyager became fully operational.

Voyager is the RAF’s sole air-to-air refuelling (AAR) tanker and also operates as strategic air transport. The aircraft is in service as the Voyager KC Mk 2, equipped with two under wing pods for refuelling fast jets, and as the Voyager KC Mk 3, with an additional centreline hose for use by large aircraft.

Remotely piloted air systems (AKA drones)

The Royal Air Force is always keen to explore and develop modern technology. The ever increasing popularity of pilotless aircraft is a significant development in the RAF’s arsenal. The use of AI declaring a multi-domain combat cloud capability as operational, is approaching the same state for swarming drone technology. Our discussion with the enthusiasts who are investigating the use of drones within the auspices of the rapid capabilities office, suggested that the RAF is at the point where the combat cloud, called Nexus, can begin to be introduced operationally. It would appear that the cloud system is ready for deployment now. A further development in swarming drone technology is nearing conclusion; within a little more than a year this technology will enter a trials programme enabling the capability to become operational.

The display of drones on show (RPAS), was impressive. From the very small unit with high resolution cameras to the somewhat larger device with built-in intelligence, the Royal Air Force is making full use of available technology; these drones are no longer toys – they mean business.

Wing Commander Andy Hampshire, Officer Commanding Operations Support Wing concluded the day by saying: “RAF Brize Norton works very closely with the local community. Enterprise Day was an opportunity to showcase what we do and give the community the chance to speak to our personnel and gain a better insight into the workings of the RAF’s largest station. The Royal Air Force has taken great pride in engaging with the guests on the day and we look forward to hosting them again in the near future.”

All images are Crown Copyright produced here with permission.