Last Updated: 23 February, 2015

1.0     Introduction

The Army Air Corps along with the Royal Corps of Signals, Corps of Royal Engineers and the Royal Regiment of Artillery form the British Army’s combat support forces.

The Army Air Corps is typically abbreviated to AAC.

2.0     Training Hierarchy

The Army Aviation Centre forms part of the Army Recruiting and Training Division (ARTD), commanded by the Director General Army Recruiting and Training (DG ART), a Major General, who in turn reports to the Commander Force Development and Training (FDT), a Lieutenant General.

During the 2013/2014 training year the ARTD was re-subordinated back to the Adjutant General’s Corps (AGC), also under the command of a Lieutenant General (OF-8), and at the same time absorbed the Collective Training Group (CTG).

3.0     History

The Army Aviation Centre, in its current format, came into being on 01 August 2009. Prior to this the establishment was known as the School of Army Aviation (SAAvn), which formed up in August 1965. At this time SAAvn consisted of a Flying Wing, a Trade Training School and the ground instruction part of Tactics Wing, under its own Commandant.

A major rebuild was undertaken at Middle Wallop in late 1966 to meet the new expansion of the AAC and this changed the station considerably. Many of the old huts were demolished to make way for an instructional block, which was named Stockwell Hall, after the first Colonel Commandant of the Army Air Corps, General Sir Hugh Charles Stockwell GCB, KBE, DSO and Bar (16 June 1903 to 27 November 1986).

4.0     Army Aviation Centre

The Army Aviation Centre, located at Middle Wallop and commanded by a Colonel, conducts training for officers and soldiers in both the aircrew and ground crew role and consists of:

  • 2 (Training) Regiment Army Air Corps; and
  • 7 (Training) Regiment Army Air Corps.

4.1     2 (Training) Regiment

2 (Training) Regiment provides the command and logistical support to the Army Aviation Centre. The Regiment consists of two squadrons:

  • 668 (Training) Squadron AAC (delivers the training):
  • 676 Squadron AAC (manages the training).

These squadrons provide and manage the ground crew training for all AAC Phase 2 trainees and Direct Entry Ground crew officers. The role of 668 (Training) Squadron is to provide Phase Two and Phase Three signals, ground crew and tactical refuel training. This encompasses Phase 2 Training (training Airtroopers to Class 3), Phase 3 Training (Class 1 courses, Junior and Senior Command Courses and Command, Leadership and Management training) and also the Ground Support Commanders Course for Officers. The primary role of 676 Squadron is to look after the administration and well being of all Phase Two Army Air Corps trainees at the Army Aviation Centre

4.2     7 (Training) Regiment

7 (Training) Regiment delivers flying training for all AAC pilots and is home to 25 Flight Army Air Corps based in Kenya following the drawdown from Belize during 2011. The Regiment consists of three squadrons which provide the necessary flying training for AAC officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs):

  • 670 Squadron AAC;
  • 671 Squadron AAC; and
  • 673 Squadron AAC.

4.2.1  670 Squadron

670 Squadron comprises a Squadron HQ and ‘A’ and ‘B’ Flights and is responsible for the Operational Training Phase of the Army Pilots Course. This is the final phase of the course at the end of which students are awarded their Army Pilots Wings. The culmination of this phase of training is a week-long exercise, Exercise Cobra Strike, which takes place in an unfamiliar location within the United Kingdom.

Phase 1 training consolidates skills learnt on the Basic and Advanced Rotary Courses at the Defence Helicopter Flying School, Shawbury. These skills are developed and adapted to meet operational flying requirements. The Flight also introduces new skills such as mountain flying, low level map reading and direction of artillery fire.

Phase 2 training conducts tactical flying down to ground level. Students are introduced to operating in patrols of two aircraft in simulated operational conditions by day and night and are also qualified on night vision goggles.

An additional, but equally important, role of the Squadron is to develop and upgrade newly qualified B2 qualified Helicopter Instructors to B1 qualified and beyond.

4.2.2  671 Squadron

671 Squadron conducts Conversion to Type training on the Lynx, Gazelle and Bell 212 aircraft for graduates of the Operational Training Phase. Conversion to Type training on the Lynx, Gazelle and Bell 212 takes 11, 10 and 12 weeks respectively. Lynx Conversion to Role (CTR) is a further 12-weeks encompassing detachments to Kirkcudbright Ranges (air live firing), RAF Valley (mountain flying) and Europe for a navigation exercise. The final exercise for CTR training, Exercise Tiger’s Revenge, is based in North Yorkshire. The Squadron also provides training for students on the Aviation Crewman course alongside Conversion to Role training for the Lynx Mk7.

4.2.3  673 Squadron

673 Squadron conducts Conversion to Type training on the Apache aircraft for both experienced Army pilots and the newly qualified, who then go on to their respective regiments to complete their combat training. The Squadron also conducts Qualified Helicopter Instructor training as well as refresher training for qualified pilots after non-flying tours of duty.

5.0     Phase 2: Soldier Training

AAC Ground crew learn how to re-arm and refuel Army helicopters and also take on other responsibilities such as helicopter troop drills, under-slung loads, helicopter marshalling and vehicle and equipment maintenance. AAC soldiers are also expected to defend the Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) and the Forward Arming and Refuelling Points (FARPs) they use.

Phase 2a specialist aviation training lasts for 13-14 weeks and is delivered at the Army Aviation Centre, Middle Wallop, in Hampshire. AAC soldiers start with an 8-day induction course which consists of:

  • Welfare, discipline and health and safety briefs;
  • Middle Wallop Station orientation;
  • AAC organisation, history, role and ethos;
  • Information Technology training;
  • Guard Duty;
  • Crew resource management; and
  • A fitness assessment.

After the induction course individuals will commence their training with 668 (Training) Squadron and complete the 6-week AAC Common Syllabus course which consists of:

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act (HSWA);
  • Map reading;
  • Communications;
  • Ground crew module; and
  • A Basic Radio User (BRU) module.

On completion of the AAC Common Syllabus an individual’s performance is evaluated and a Trade Streaming Board will determine whether the individual will follow the ground crew or signals stream for their Phase 2b training. The Ground crew course is 5-weeks and contains Refuel and Attack Helicopter Basic modules. The Basic Signals module is a 4-week course.

After the ground crew or signals module, all AAC soldiers will undergo a 2-week basic combat skills refresher course which is designed to update individuals on any changes that may have occurred since completion of Phase 1initial training.

The final part of training is carried out at the Defence School of Transport, Leaconfield, Yorkshire where individuals will obtain a car driving licence, if they do not already hold one, and a C + E licence which will enable personnel to drive large vehicles such as the Demountable Rack Offload and Pickup System (DROPS).

5.1     Aviation Crewman

An Aviation Crewman is a member of the ground crew who is trained to work in the rear of Army aircraft, both fixed wing and rotary, providing protection for the aircraft when it is flying over hostile territory. For example, the Lynx is usually flown either very high so the enemy’s weapons are unable to reach it, or very low so that it is on top of the enemy before they see it – known as a close-quarter battle run.

Roles that the Aviation Crewman could perform include:

  • Operating a 7.62mm machine gun as a door gunner;
  • Supervising the movement of personnel in and out of the aircraft, and
  • Assisting in the evacuation of casualties.

The Aviation Crewman role is open to any member of the AAC ground crew who has reached, or been recommended for, the rank of Lance Corporal, and passed the Aviation Crewman course. For those aspiring to become pilots, the AAC suggests that the job of Aviation Crewman is the ideal experience for going on to become a qualified Army pilot.

5.2     Qualifications

All Airtroopers undertaking Phase 2 Training at the Army Aviation Centre, Middle Wallop, enter an apprenticeship in aviation or telecommunications, depending on whether they enter the ground crew or signals stream. This apprenticeship includes a Level 2 Diploma and a technical certificate.

After qualifying as Class 2 soldiers, Airtroopers return for Class 1 training. This provides the opportunity to enrol on an Advanced Apprenticeship, including a Level 3 Diploma and a technical certificate. Once promoted there is the opportunity to obtain Level 4 Diplomas, a Foundation Degree and a full degree. Management qualifications and the membership of industry sector institutes are also available.

6.0     Phase 2: Officer Training

Officers joining the AAC will do so in one of two roles:

  1. Pilot Officer; or
  2. Aviation Support Officer.

The AAC is looking for potential officers that can either be trained to be a competent pilot and become a pilot officer or trained to command ground support flights as an aviation support officer.

6.1     Direct Entry Pilot Officer

Before entering the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS), potential pilot officer candidates will be sent to RAF Cranwell to sit aircrew aptitude tests and have an aircrew medical. If successful, individual’s will be invited to a 48 hour familiarisation visit where they will be briefed about the AAC, take a look at its equipment and may even go on a flight. Individuals will also have a chance to meet some young officers before discussing options and the way ahead with a Recruit Liaison Officer. Those interested in the Aviation Support Officer role will be selected for a visit to Middle Wallop before RMAS.

6.2     Five Stages of Officer Flying Training

There are five stages to Army flying training:

  • Stage 1, Pilot Selection: if an individual is chosen to attend aircrew selection they will need to pass specific tests that are designed to test their aptitude and medical suitability for pilot training.
  • Stage 2, Familiarisation: after an individual has passed the aptitude and medical tests they are invited to the AAC, based at Middle Wallop in Hampshire. Here they will learn more about the AAC and may be able to fly in a helicopter. Individuals will also attend a brief interview.
  • Stage 3, Flying Grading: the flying grading course assesses an individual’s potential to become a military pilot. It consists of 13 hours flying a fixed-wing aircraft with an instructor.
  • Stage 4, Officer Training: individuals must complete officer training at the RMAS. The course lasts for 44 weeks and teaches a wide range of skills that will develop leadership ability and demonstrating how to apply it in a military context. At week 28 individuals will attend the Regimental Selection Board to compete for a commission into the AAC.
  • Stage 5, Flying Training: after completing officer training individuals will complete the five phase Army Pilots Course which consists of:
    • Elementary Flying Training;
    • Basic Rotary Wing Training;
    • Advanced Rotary Wing Training;
    • An Operational Training Phase; and
    • Conversion to Type Training.

6.3     Aviation Support Officer

Aviation Support officers command upwards of 50 soldiers in Helicopter Arming Teams, supported by Army Landing Point Commanders. Aviation Support officers are responsible for the creation and maintenance of the FOBs and FARPs for rotary wing aircraft.

Working in a joint service and multinational environment, the detailed command of a vital aviation enabler that delivers security, communications, planning facilities, situational awareness, fuel, ammunition, maintenance, food and rest will be up to the AS officer.

Suitable candidates are interviewed by a Regimental Selection Board in week 28 of the RMAS Commissioning course and those successful are commissioned into the Corps on graduation. The AAC offers a three year Short Service Commission and accepts applicants from both men and women aged 18-29.

On completion of RMAS the Aviation Support officer will complete the Aviation Support Officer Young Officer’s course at Middle Wallop prior to joining a frontline Apache Regiment. Once there, individuals will continue training with their Apache Squadron as it conducts its Conversion to Role training, learning how to fight with and deploy the Apache.

6.4     Qualifications

The RMAS Commissioning Course offers professional management qualifications and memberships of institutions such as the Institute of Leadership and Management and the Chartered Management Institute.

7.0     Defence Helicopter Flying School

The Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS) is a lodger unit based at RAF Shawbury, a Royal Air Force station near Shawbury, England. DHFS trains aircrew from all three Services. The DHFS, commanded by a Wing Commander, consists of three flying squadrons:

  • 660 Squadron, Army Air Corps.
  • 705 Naval Air Squadron: these are ‘parallel’ training squadrons teaching Basic and Advanced single-engine helicopter flying to students from all 3 Services. 660 and 705 Squadron take alternative student intakes.
  • No. 60 (R) Squadron RAF: is the advanced rotary wing training squadron, teaching mainly RAF student pilots and crewmen.

Cobham operates the UK Defence Helicopter Flying School (DHFS) contract, in support of the UK’s Ministry of Defence, to provide helicopter training capability for all three Services and non-UK customers (Cobham, 2014). This long term contract includes the provision of:

  • 34 AS350 Eurocopter Squirrels
  • 12 Bell 412EP Griffins
  • Bell 412 Simulator
  • 3 Cockpit Procedure Trainers (CPTs)
  • All aircraft maintenance and Logistics Support
  • 40% of the pilot and rear crew instructors
  • All ground school and simulator instructors

Each year, around 165 basic pilot students and 44 rear crew students train at RAF Shawbury before beginning their single service tailored training. For the RAF, this entails the pilots and crewman students combining for an advanced multi-engine course that includes use of night-vision devices (NVD), tactical flying and an introduction to SAR. The SAR course is based at the Search and Rescue Training Unit, at RAF Valley, also part of the DHFS.

The Army students progress to the Operational Training Phase flown at the Army Aviation Centre, Middle Wallop. Training includes low-level flying, tactics, battlefield support and NVD operations. These, along with other ancillary courses, amount to a total requirement of over 30,000 flying hours per year on three sites.

8.0     How to Become an Army Pilot

The AAC operates both rotary and fixed wing aircraft. The AAC fleet of aircraft is flown by both Officers and NCOs of the AAC and maintained by technicians of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME). Army aircrew are soldiers first and pilots second, and this philosophy is reflected throughout the selection and training process.

There are a number of ways of becoming a pilot in the Army, either as an officer or NCO and the AAC accepts applications from both male and female applicants.

  • Officer (Direct Entry): the AAC offers an eight year Short Service Commission (SSC) to a number of officer cadets, post commissioning from the RMAS each year. Ideally aircrew aptitude tests, aircrew medicals, and the Flying Grading Course should be completed before entering RMAS. If this is not possible officer cadets may be able to complete aircrew selection and medicals during their time at the RMAS (view Sections 6.1 and 6.2)
  • Officer (Assignment from another Regiment or Corps): there is also the opportunity for officers from any regiment or corps to volunteer for a tour with the AAC. Officers must have completed two years of commissioned service and be on the Army Pilot Course by the age of 30. Officers may apply for a transfer into the AAC during their flying tour. Those officers who do not wish to apply or are not accepted for transfer will return to their parent unit or corps.
  • NCO:  selection procedures for soldiers are the same as those for officers. Soldiers not already holding the rank of Acting Sergeant will be promoted to this rank and re-badge AAC on the award of their Army Flying Wings, following Conversion to Type training. Any soldier with the following may apply for the Army Pilot Course:

8.1     Selection Process

The selection process to attend the Army Pilots Course is exactly the same for both officers and soldiers and is divided into two distinct phases:

  • Phase 1: Flying Aptitude Testing at the Officer and Aircrew Selection Centre (OASC) RAFC Cranwell. Candidates complete a Medical Board to assess their fitness for aircrew duties. They will also undertake a series of tests confirming eye/hand/feet co-ordination and the ability to read instruments accurately. Successful candidates will be allocated a place on the Flying Grading course at the earliest convenient date.
  • Phase 2: Flying Grading. This is a three to four week practical assessment, held at Middle Wallop, which involves flying the Grob Tutor light fixed wing aircraft. Successful candidates will subsequently be interviewed by the Pilot Selection Board at Headquarters Army Air Corps. Direct entry pilot officers will progress to officer training at the RMAS.

Applicants who fail Flying Grading may not reapply for pilot selection.

8.2     Medical Requirements

In addition to the Regular Army medical requirements, applicants for AAC pilot training have to meet further criteria in order to be considered, which are:

  • Eyesight
    • Visual acuity without spectacles: 6/12
    • Visual acuity with spectacles: 6/6
    • Lens power: -0.75 to +1.75 dioptres
    • Astigmatism: Max of 0.75 dioptres
    • Colour perception: Ishihara test pass
    • Laser eye surgery is not currently accepted.
  • Weight
    • Minimum: 60.4kg (9st 5lbs)
    • Maximum: 96.7kg (15st 3.18lbs)
  • Height
    • Minimum: 163cm (5’4″)
    • Maximum: 193cm (6’4″)
    • In some circumstances, for applicants near these limits, a cockpit check will determine their suitability for training.
  • A definite history of migrane, asthma, alcohol or drug abuse and hay fever, unless free from the hay fever symptoms without medication for the previous four years, is normally a bar to pilot training.

8.3     Army Pilot Course

The Army Pilot Course consists of five phases, with elements of the course being conducted in different locations throughout the UK. The constituent phases of the Army Pilot Course are:

  1. Elementary Flying Training: this lasts for 13-weeks and is conducted at the Elementary Flying Training School, RAF Barkston Heath. It consists of 47 hours flying in the Grob Tutor two seat training aircraft.
  2. Basic Rotary Wing Training: This lasts for 13-weeks and is conducted at the Defence Helicopter Flying School, RAF Shawbury. It comprises 35 hours flying in a Squirrel aircraft, covering instruction on basic helicopter handling and introduces cross country navigation.
  3. Advanced Rotary Wing Training: This is also conducted at RAF Shawbury and lasts 11-weeks, providing a further 34 flying hours in the Squirrel aircraft. It introduces instrument, flying, night flying captaincy and low level navigation.
  4. Operational Training Phase: This course converts a trainee military pilot into an Army pilot by training the student to operate the aircraft within the Army tactical environment. It is conducted at the Army Aviation Centre, Middle Wallop, lasting 22-weeks comprising 91 flying hours and a tactical simulation course. On successful completion of this phase students are awarded their Army pilots brevet (Wings) provisionally, which is confirmed on completion of a conversion to an operational Army helicopter type. Students who fail any phase of the Army Pilot Course will normally be returned to their unit.
  5. Conversion to Type Training: After provisionally gaining their wings, students will remain at Middle Wallop to convert to the type of aircraft they will fly once they reach their unit. The length of time at Middle Wallop varies according to the type of aircraft:
    1. Apache: this is 26-weeks, consisting of 60 flying hours and 79 simulator hours; and
    2. Lynx: this is 10-weeks, consisting of 23 flying hours and 36 simulator hours.

View: RAF Flying Training Pipelines (Correct: September 2011) for an outline of the training process (last slide). The return of service is six years following completion of conversion to type training.

Thirty Open University Level 1 credit points are available on the Elementary Flying Training Course. More are available should individuals decide to apply, and succeed, in the numerous advanced courses. Additionally, trainee pilots can obtain a Private Pilot Licence for both General Aviation (PPL(A)) and Helicopters (PPL(H)) during Elementary Flying Training at Barkston Heath and Single Engine Rotary Wing training at Shawbury.

9.0     Aviation Training International Limited

Aviation Training International Limited (ATIL) is a 50:50 joint venture company between The Boeing Company and AgustaWestland (ATIL, 2014). The Attack Helicopter Training Service (AHTS) provides Aircrew, Ground crew and Maintenance Training solutions. The twenty year contract with the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) was placed under the terms of a Private Finance Initiative (PFI). ATIL has three purpose built state-of-the-art training centres located at Middle Wallop, Wattisham and Arborfield in the UK. ATIL’s headquarters is located in Sherborne, Dorset.

The Training Centre is located at the Army Air Corps’ Middle Wallop base, and provides Aircrew and Ground crew Training using a range of equipment including a Full Mission Simulator, Classroom Maintenance Training Systems and both Fuel and Armament Part-Task Trainers.

The Training Centre is located at the Army Air Corps’ Wattisham base, and provides Aircrew Continuation Training using a range of equipment including 2 Field Deployable Simulators, with the ability to network with simulators at Middle Wallop.

The Training Centre is located close to the Army School of Electronic & Aeronautical Engineering, Arborfield Garrison, and provides Maintenance Training using a range of equipment including Maintenance Training Equipment and Classroom Maintenance Training Systems.

10.0   Cost of Training

In 2012, it was estimated that the cost per soldier recruit for Phase 2 training for the Army Air Corps was £128,700 (HC, 2012) for a single Phase 2 course.

11.0   References

ATIL (Aviation Training International Limited) (2014) Home Page. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.atil.co.uk/index.htm. [Accessed: 17 March, 2014].

Cobham (2014) Cobham Aviation Services: Helicopter Services. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.fbheliservices.com/sites/default/files/CAvS%20Helicopter%20Services%20Brochure%20[f]%20[hr].pdf. [Accessed: 17 March, 2014].

HC (House of Common Debates) Daily Hansard – Written Answer, 12 June 2012, Column 449W. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm120612/text/120612w0002.htm#120612w0002.htm_spnew58. [Accessed: 12 March, 2014].

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