The primary role of RAF Leeming is to train for, deliver and support UK and expeditionary air operations. To accomplish this RAF Leeming is home to No 100 Squadron whose Hawk aircraft undertake a multitude of training tasks. Incorporated within 100 Squadron is the Navigator Training Unit that conducts the final phase of training for navigators destined to fly either the Tornado F3 or Tornado GR4. Also operating the Hawk is JFACTSU (Joint Forward Air Controller Training and Standards Unit). Their primary role is to develop, standardise and teach forward air controlling.
2.0 Joint Forward Air Controller Training and Standards Unit
The Joint Forward Air Controller Training and Standards Unit (JFACTSU) is the only NATO and US Joint Services accredited school in UK Defence to train Forward Air Controllers (FACs). JFACTSU is a small lodger unit of 24 personnel within RAF Leeming, with policy direction and guidance coming from the Joint Air Land Organisation (JALO) based at RAF High Wycombe.
JFACTSU is commanded by an RAF Regiment Squadron Leader, with a joint staff including RAF fast jet close air support aircrew, specialist qualified signallers and ground-based Forward Air Controllers. All three Services are represented at JFACTSU as well as several Regiments across Army capabilities. The Hawk TMk1 of 100 Squadron is currently the principle air platform used for training at JFACTSU.
3.0 Forward Air Controller Curriculum
JFACTSU currently trains around 100 FACs per year for employment across Defence. These students are from all three Services (Army, Royal Marines and RAF Regiment). They include pilots from the UK Attack Helicopter units flying Apache, who will become what is termed as FAC(A); where the A stands for Airborne. JFACTSU currently delivers three core course syllabi:
- FAC (C) (the C stands for Certified and is the initial FAC qualification): The FAC (C) course is currently 8-weeks in length and takes a student with a back ground of limited or no air integration experience through three phases of learning. These are spread between classroom lectures, simulated controlling of aircraft using 1 of 2 in-house computer simulators and practical controlling experience using real fast jet aircraft. The successful candidate at conclusion of the course will have accrued basic knowledge on close air support platforms and their associated weapons across NATO; practical airspace management; integration of artillery and mortar fire with air support; and briefing and planning with a ground manoeuvre unit. The student will complete both practical assessments with a real aircraft and written exams to prove their knowledge base.
- SupFAC (Supervisory FAC, these are the unit level continuation training facilitators post graduation): The SupFAC course is 4-weeks in length and is split into two core modules. The first module is 2-weeks long and is for the training of individuals destined to serve with a TACP, it involves management of airspace and procedures for booking and using land and airspace, both for training during peacetime and during operations. The second part of the course sees the departure of the TACP students and the senior FACs learning about the supervision of FAC training. They will gain a qualification in running UK Air Weapons Ranges (a military training area designated suitable for aircraft to drop bombs).
- FAC(A): The final course is an even more specialised. One per year is run, known as the FAC(A) course. The students will all be qualified aircrew of either rotary or fixed wing air platforms. It is 4-weeks in length following a similar concept to the FAC(C) course, but these students already know a lot of the air information by nature of being aircrew already, this facilitates a lot of the extra lessons taught on the (C) course to be removed and thus shortened.