RAF pilot basic training boost welcomed by Anglesey councillor

The move to bring basic pilot training for the RAF and Royal Navy to Anglesey has been warmly welcomed.

The Ascent consortium, who provide the training, is moving it from RAF Linton on Ouse in North Yorkshire to RAF Valley on Anglesey.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) confirmed that basic flight training would take place at the island base.

Councillor Aled Morris Jones said: “This is very good news, it ensures the future of the RAF base on Anglesey.”

Mr Jones, who holds the economic development portfolio on Anglesey council, added: “We have very close links as the community of Anglesey with the base.

“We celebrate the freedom given to the base once a year and there is always a warm reception when they march through the county town.

Support roles

“But this is very good news… that something is taking the place of the search and rescue facility.”

Advanced flight training has been conducted at Valley since 1950.

Pilots at RAF Valley are currently learning to fly Hawk T2 fast jets.

Announcing its preferred bidder to supply new basic training aircraft, Ascent said American Beechcraft T-6C aircraft would be based at RAF Valley in future.

A consolidation of flight training on Anglesey could create new jobs on the island in engineering and support roles.

RAF Search and Rescue, which has its headquarters at RAF Valley, is due to be wound down over the next two years as the private company Bristow has won the UK Government contract to replace the service.

Hangars and other facilities used by the Search and Rescue 22 Squadron and the Search and Rescue Training Unit on the west and south side of the Valley airfield would then become vacant.

The Duke of Cambridge spent three years as an RAF search and rescue pilot at Valley on Anglesey.

Prince William completed his last shift in 2013 and said the island has been a “special place” for him.

Sourced by BBC News


Unmanned drones: MoD told ‘transparency will build public trust’

British Reaper drone in Afghanistan

The Ministry of Defence should be more open about using unmanned aerial drones so the public has greater confidence in the operations, MPs have said.

The Commons defence committee backed calls to publish details where there was evidence civilians had been killed by drones – if this could be done without jeopardising operations.

Transparency would help “debunk myths and counter misinformation”, MPs said.

But they concluded that the UK’s use of drones was fully within the law.

The committee reported that the MoD had said it was aware of only one case of a UK drone strike in Afghanistan which had resulted in civilian fatalities.

Four Afghan civilians and two insurgents were killed in a March 2011 attack on a pair of pick-up trucks carrying explosives.

Although the MoD had carried out an investigation into the incident, the committee said it should accept the recommendation of the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson QC, that details of such incidents should be made public.

“In any case in which civilians have been, or appear to have been, killed, the state responsible is under an obligation to conduct a prompt, independent and impartial fact-finding inquiry and to provide a detailed public explanation,” Mr Emmerson had concluded.

The committee said: “We recognise that this is not a simple and straightforward request as to do so could seriously jeopardise continuing operations.

“Nonetheless, we recommend that, to the extent that it is operationally secure to do so, following an event which has resulted in confirmed civilian casualties the MoD should seek to publish details about the incident and any lessons learned from the review process.”

RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire Drones are operated from control rooms at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire

The committee praised the RAF pilots who operate the drones from UK bases.

“Despite being remote from the battle space they exhibited a strong sense of connection to the life and death decisions they are sometimes required to take,” it said.

‘Secret programme’

Armed forces minister Mark Francois said it was “very welcome” that the committee had recognised publicly the “value and effectiveness” of UK drones, “and that operations comply fully with international law”.

He continued: “I am particularly pleased to note the committee’s recognition of the highly skilled personnel who operate this equipment, supporting and protecting our ground troops, our allies and Afghan civilians on a daily basis,.

“I hope this very positive report helps to dispel some of the frustrating myths often propagated, and reassure people that remotely piloted air systems bring life-saving benefit to our armed forces, and to those we are working to protect, every day.”

But Kat Craig, legal director at human rights charity Reprieve, said: “A range of evidence indicates that the UK supports the secret strikes carried out by the CIA and others in violation of international and domestic law – through the sharing of intelligence and the provision of facilities at US bases on British soil.

“Yet British ministers, like their US counterparts, have refused to come clean with the public over the role our country plays.

“It is high time the secret drone programme – and Britain’s part in it – was brought out of the shadows.”

Sourced by BBC News


Ministers ‘failing to deliver’ on aerospace enterprise zone

Businesses are struggling at an aerospace enterprise zone in the Vale of Glamorgan because of restrictions at a flagship site, one entrepreneur claims.

Sion Llewelyn set up Avalon Aviation at St Athan airfield to import and sell light aircraft.

But he claims restricted flying times are preventing firms from making the most of development opportunities.

Economy Minister Edwina Hart said plans were in place to address concerns.

The Cardiff Airport and St Athan zone is one of seven areas across Wales where businesses are offered incentives with the aim of generating jobs and boosting the economy.

Avalon Aviation was set up by Mr Llewelyn when the enterprise zone was established two years ago, assisted by a grant from the Welsh government.

But he claims that restricted flying times to and from the airfield pose a significant problem for aviation companies at the site.

“We’re struggling, as are a number of the businesses struggling here, because of what seems to be an unhappy relationship between the traditional use of this airfield by the Ministry of Defence and the RAF and the attempt to bring in new life, new blood and its civilian use as an enterprise zone run by the Welsh government,” he said.

“The airfield is still run by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the RAF and they will only operate Monday to Friday 0930 to 1630 – civil service office hours. The reality of business, of course, and especially aviation is that it’s a seven day a week operation.”

“Businesses are finding it very difficult to get off the ground – mind the pun,” added Mr Llewelyn.

‘Applauded’

“I think the government need to be applauded for their vision of creating an aviation enterprise zone but their ability to deliver that has to be questioned.”

Mrs Hart told assembly members on Thursday that flying hours at St Athan will be extended from next month.

Giving evidence to the enterprise committee she said a nine-to-five service would be available from Monday to Saturday with aircraft access in and out of the airfield on Sundays also available on request.

“We acknowledge there’s been difficulty for the businesses there but I think we’ve also got to acknowledge that it is very difficult taking things through sometimes with the MoD which is a vast organisation in terms of the chain of command,” the minister told AMs.

“We are absolutely committed to getting this right and hopefully now from April this will be got right and businesses will be very happy and we hope to attract other businesses.”

Last October, First Minister Carwyn Jones said almost 2,000 jobs have been created across the seven enterprise zones, with a further 6,500 in the pipeline.

Bruce Dickinson at Cardiff Aviation

Opposition parties say the government has not released enough information about the aims and performance of enterprise zones.

Plaid Cymru economy spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth said there has been too much “secrecy”.

“We’re not getting the information that we need from government at this point in time,” he said.

“If you have strategies in place, if you have public money being pumped into these enterprise zones, we need to be making sure we’re getting value for money.”

A Welsh government spokesperson said: “The minister for economy, science and transport has already published performance indicators relating to enterprise zones and has made a commitment to publish aggregated jobs figures in due course.”

Sourced by BBC News


Wingwalker performs acrobatics high above Cardiff as RAF squadron is resurrected in the city after a gap of 57 years

By Camilla Turner,

It carried out enemy attacks in North Africa and laid smoke screens in World War II… and after half a century, an RAF squadron is being resurrected

Honorary Air Commodore Vic Norman of 614 Squadron Cardiff and Glamorgan takes off from Cardiff International Airport for a fly past over 614 Squadron’s war time base at RAF Pengam Moors.

It carried out enemy attacks in North Africa and laid smoke screens for the landings at Dieppe during the Second World War, before being disbanded in the 1950s.

But after half a century, RAF 614 (County of Glamorgan) Squadron is being resurrected to its former glory, and has already opened its doors to new recruits.

To celebrate its re-creation exactly 57 years after 614 Squadron was disbanded, Honorary Air Commodore Vic Norman piloted a wingwalker across Cardiff.

Stella Guilding, 26, performed handstands and acrobatics as the aircraft glided over RAF Pengam Moors, the old operational centre of the Squadron.

After months of preparation, the grand launch took place at the Squadron’s brand new headquarters at Ty Llewellyn, Cardiff.

“We are delighted to get to the point where the squad is open for recruitment,” said Squadron Leader Mat Best. “We had people standing outside the gates before we even opened.”

The Squadron is hoping to recruit 120 new reservists by this time next year to fill an array of posts, ranging from photographer to intelligence analyst.

Squadron Leader Gary Lane added: “The response we’ve seen here in Cardiff is better than any other in the UK. To have that amount of people almost knocking on the door is fantastic.”

The re-forming of the 614 Squadron is part of a wider Ministry of Defence (MOD) strategy to bolster the number of reservists in the fighting forces to 20% by 2020.

Welsh Secretary David Jones, who attended the open day, said: “It is 57 years to the very day that this squadron was closed, and it is good to see that it is re-open again.

“Reservists will play an increasingly important role in our country’s defence and people are clearly very keen to be part of it.”

The 614 Squadron was formed at RAF Pengam Moors near Cardiff as an army co-operation unit under the Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RauxAF) on June 1, 1937.

Over the years the Squadron has flown a number of different aircraft types, from Hawker Hind bi-planes during its early years to the Supermarine Spitfires at the end of the war, and finally de Havilland Vampires after 1950.

During the Second World War, the Squadron contributed to the nation’s defences by patrolling over the Scottish coast between Inverness and Berwick and shipping escort duties in the Mediterranean.

In support of RAF Bomber Command’s Thousand Bomber Raids in May and June 1942, the Squadron sent its Blenheims to attack enemy airfields in the Low Countries and in August 1942 it laid smoke screens to protect the advancing troops in their landings at Dieppe.

In November 1942 the Squadron moved to North Africa where it attacked enemy airfields and lines of communication until May 1943.

It then carried out shipping escort duties in the Mediterranean until being disbanded on January 25, 1944 at Borizzo Airfield, Sicily.

The second incarnation of No 614 Squadron arose from the No. 462 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), which had formed on September 7, 1942 at Fayid, Egypt, under Article XV of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.

The RAAF Overseas Headquarters requested that the squadron be renumbered and transferred to the RAF. On February 15, 1944, while it was en route to Celone, Italy the unit was renumbered to No 614 Squadron.

Equipped with Handley Page Halifaxes it was involved in bombing missions over Italy and the Balkans and it also carried out supply drops to partisans in those areas.

On July 27, 1945 it was disbanded at Amendola Airfield, Italy, and renumbered to No 214 Squadron RAF.

With the reactivation of the RAuxAF, No 614 Squadron was reformed on May 10, 1946 at RAF Llandow as a day fighter squadron.

Along with all the flying units of the RAuxAF, the unit was disbanded on March 10, 1957.

Sourced by Wales Online


UAV protest outside drone testing base in Aberporth

An unmanned aerial vehicle (generic)

Unmanned aerial vehicles can be used for military and non-military purposes

More than 100 people have protested outside a site where unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are tested.

Protesters from CND Cymru and other groups gathered at Parc Aberporth in Ceredigion and called for the end of military drone testing.

It was planned to coincide with a vigil at the Excel Arms Trade Fair taking place in London.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the UAVs only flew at designated testing areas at Parc Aberporth.

“We’re trying to raise awareness that Wales is part of the war machine,” said John Cox, chairman of CND Cymru.

“Most people are unaware that Wales is part of the development of drones.

“They don’t have bombs on board but they are testing out drones here.”

QinetiQ, which works on UAVs, is one of a number of defence contractors working at Parc Aberporth.

An MoD spokesperson said: “Watchkeeper, an unarmed Remotely Piloted Air System (RPAS), only flies at the designated testing area at Parc Aberporth.

“Other UK RPAS aircraft, such as Reaper, only operate in Afghanistan under the legal authority of UN Security Council resolutions.

“These aircraft have played a vital role supporting military operations and have saved the lives of countless UK and allied forces by providing essential Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance.”

Sourced by BBC News Wales


Castlemartin firing notice April 13

Live firing takes place at Castlemartin. Details are published under the Firing Notice link under Related pages.

Unscheduled firing may take place without prior warning, and firing may be cancelled without notice. Please ring 01646 662367 from 08:00hrs each day to hear the firing programme for that day.

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path passes through the Eastern side of the Range and is open to the public on non-firing days. Please keep to the road and footpath itself which is marked by white Posts. All other areas of the Range are OUT OF BOUNDS to the public.

Red flags (Red lights by night) will be displayed whenever the Range is active.

During non-firing times, the Range Danger Area is patrolled by serving military staff and in addition, troops under training are briefed to challenge any civilians they see on the range.

Live Firing Times Information

For further information on live firing times, contact 01646 662336 (manned during firing), 01646 662367 (recorded message) or from the gatehouse 01646 662280 (manned 24 hours a day).

Date Road from Bosherston to Road leading to Night firing will
St Govan’s Chapel Stack Rocks take place on
Footpath from St Govan’s (Green Bridge of Wales) (X)
Head to Broadhaven
- - - - -
1 Monday OPEN OPEN -
2 Tuesday CLOSED CLOSED X
3 Wednesday CLOSED CLOSED -
4 Thursday CLOSED CLOSED X
5 Friday CLOSED CLOSED -
- - - - -
- - - - -
8 Monday OPEN OPEN -
9 Tuesday OPEN OPEN -
10 Wednesday OPEN OPEN -
11 Thursday OPEN OPEN -
12 Friday OPEN OPEN -
- - - -
- - - -
15 Monday OPEN OPEN -
16 Tuesday OPEN OPEN -
17 Wednesday OPEN OPEN -
18 Thursday OPEN OPEN -
19 Friday OPEN OPEN -
- - - -
- - - -
22 Monday CLOSED CLOSED -
23 Tuesday CLOSED CLOSED X
24 Wednesday CLOSED CLOSED -
25 Thursday CLOSED CLOSED X
26 Friday CLOSED CLOSED -
- - - -
- - - -
29 Monday CLOSED CLOSED -
30 Tuesday CLOSED CLOSED X

All information obtained by the Ministry of Defence


Manorbier firing notice March 13

The Air Defence Range at Manorbier is the only range in mainland UK from where the High Velocity Missile, employed in the anti aircraft role, can be fired. This weapon system is the latest in a design progression from the Blowpipe system, deployed during the Falkland campaign of 1982, through to the S15 Javelin, deployed during the first Gulf conflict 1990 – 91. It is currently one of the most effective and technologically advanced air defence systems in the world.

The aim of each missile firing is to assess the effectiveness of the whole system and the ability of the missile operator to engage a hostile aircraft, simulated by an aerial target known as the Banshee. Banshee, which looks like a very large model aircraft, is powered by a two cylinder petrol engine and carries sophisticated instrumentation. Used in conjunction with ground monitoring equipment, these aircraft test the performance of the launcher and operator. Banshee is launched out to sea and recovered by parachute at Manorbier Range.

In addition to High Velocity Missile firings, which constitute the core business of the range, Air Defence Range Manorbier also plays host to the Air Warfare Centre who conduct a variety of aircraft related trials. Every effort is made to ensure that the inevitable low flying activity associated with these trials is kept to a minimum over the mainland.

During firing, surveillance radars and range safety craft ensure that no unauthorised ships or aircraft enter the range danger area. This exclusion zone covers an area of 570 square kilometres to the south of the rangehead, out to 21 kilometres and up to a ceiling of 40,000 feet.

Date Range active
(X)
- - -
1 Friday X
- - -
- - -
4 Monday X
5 Tuesday X
6 Wednesday X
7 Thursday X
8 Friday X
- - -
- - -
11 Monday -
12 Tuesday -
13 Wednesday -
14 Thursday -
15 Friday -
- - -
- - -
18 Monday -
19 Tuesday -
20 Wednesday -
21 Thursday -
22 Friday -
- - -
- - -
25 Monday -
26 Tuesday -
27 Wednesday -
28 Thursday -
29 Friday -
- - -
- - -
31 Wednesday -

Note: On 9 Nov 2012, during the period 0600 to 0900 hrs, it is possible that 2 x explosions might be heard, as well as the sound of small arms blank ammunition being fired, from within the Manorbier Range training area. It is advised that this activity is compliant with the Range Byelaws and operating license.

All information obtained by the Ministry of Defence


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