RAF Valley is commanded by a Group Captain and is located in Holyhead, on the Isle of Anglesey. In 1957 RAF Valley became a training base, and is now one of the most important in the UK Military providing advanced fast jet pilot training using the BAE Hawks for pilots.
RAF Valley is also home to 203 (Reserve) Squadron, the Sea King Operational Conversion Unit, “C” Flight of No 22 Squadron equipped with 2 Sea King HAR3s for Search and Rescue duties, and the Search and Rescue Training Unit, which operates 3 Griffin HT1s.
2.0 No 4 Flying Training School
The largest unit based at RAF Valley is No 4 Flying Training School, which operates 71 Hawk T1/T1A and 28 Hawk T Mk 2 aircraft, and incorporates the Central Flying School Advanced Training Unit. No 4 Flying Training School (FTS) takes RAF and RN pilots from No 1 FTS at RAF Linton-on-Ouse and trains them to fly fast jets, prior to training on an Operational Conversion Unit. No 4 FTS is divided into two squadrons, commanded by Wing Commanders; 208 Squadron provides the advanced flying training (Hawk T2) and IV Squadron provides Phase 4 fast jet training (Hawk T1/T1A) for the UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS). The Hawk T2 uses systems emulating modern frontline aircraft, giving the “very best training” to students.
2.1 Hawk T2 Aircraft
The RAFs Hawk T2 aircraft, coupled with an updated fast jet training course, uses state of the art advanced avionics suite and sensor simulation software to help make the step up between trainer aircraft and Typhoon aircraft easier, revolutionising flying training at RAF Valley.
The live flying at RAF Valley is supported by an increasing range of synthetic training on the ground. This makes every flying hour more productive and makes the entire programme more cost effective. As such, RAF Officers believe the course is “years ahead” of other training systems and officials from other Air Forces across the world seem to agree, having subsequently sent their trainee pilots for flying training.
The Hawk T2, which arrived at RAF Valley in 2011, is the latest version of the Hawk aircraft which first arrived at RAF Valley in the mid-1970s. This aircraft is different to its predecessor, it has a digital glass cockpit designed to closely resemble those of fast jets and this has cut the time to convert training into flying fighter aircraft such as Typhoon and F-35 Lightning II. The Hawk T2 aircraft also boasts a cockpit and mission system representative of modern 4th and 5th generation aircraft types which allows complex skill sets such as beyond visual range missile combat to be transferred from the Operational Conversion Units. Further, the Hawk T2 has three, full colour, multi-function displays similar to those used by modern fighters such as Typhoon, unlike the cockpit dials and switches of the Hawk T1. These can be used to display navigation, weapon and systems information. The cockpit has new lighting fully compatible with the use of night-vision goggles for night operations. Finally, the Hawk T2 aircraft’s head-up display (HUD) has been updated to use symbols and data used in more current combat aircraft.
3.0 Search and Rescue Training Unit
The Search and Rescue Training Unit (SARTU), part of the Defence Helicopter Flying School, provides all RAF helicopter aircrew with basic Search and Rescue (SAR) and mountain flying skills and deliver advanced SAR training to military aircrew destined for SAR duties. SARTU offers a number of bespoke courses teaching SAR specific and mountain flying skills to Pilots and Crewmen:
- Pilots: SARTU have a comprehensive mountain flying package that starts with basic techniques for safely operating in a mountainous environment and swiftly moves to valley and bowl approaches and advanced techniques which can be used in more difficult weather – strong winds, turbulence etc. SARTU also run a complete Advanced Training course teaching handling and Crew Resource Management (CRM) in a multi-engine helicopter as well as navigation, instrument flying, SAR and mountains. Both ab-initio and experienced aircrew destined for RAF or RN SAR complete advanced courses at SARTU. These courses cover all aspects: basic winching in a safe environment, overwater hovering to rescue downed aircrew, locator beacon homing and winching to cliffs and boats.
- Crewmen: SARTU provides ab-initio crewmen students with an introduction to SAR helicopter techniques in both the Winch Operator and Winchman roles. This training includes mountain and overwater helicopter operations. SARTU also provides a selection course and dedicated crewmen training to meet the needs of the UK SARF and 84 Squadron RAF.
- International Defence Training (IDT): On behalf of DHFS, tailored SAR courses are also delivered to Foreign and Commonwealth military and civilian customers. SARTU also run a number of staff courses including a Qualified Helicopter Crewman Instructor (QHCI) course, teaching experienced SAR crewmen how to instruct, staff pilot conversion courses and QHI/QHCI work ups.
4.0 The Central Flying School Hawk Squadron
The Central Flying School (CFS) Hawk Squadron, alternatively known as No 19(F) Squadron, forms part of the CFS Examining Wing but is a lodger unit within RAF Valley.
The CFS Examining Wing, although based within the CFS HQ at RAFC Cranwell, is a diverse unit responsible for examining all aspects of flying and flying instruction. The Commandant CFS is responsible, through their staff, for maintaining the aim of the CFS; which is to develop and maintain the highest possible standards of pure flying and flying instruction on both fixed and rotary wing aircraft throughout the RAF.
The CFS Hawk Squadron is responsible for:
- All Hawk instructor training and standardisation.
- Refresher training and exchange officer courses.
- Basic Qualified Weapons Instructor and Qualified Tactics Instructor courses.
- Conversion to the Hawk.
- Initial part of the fast-jet QPNI course.