RAF Waddington is commanded by a Group Captain and is located 3 miles south of Lincoln between the A607 and A15 trunk roads. It is the UK hub of intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR), supporting national and NATO operations.
2.0 54 (Reserve) Squadron
In October 2005, 54 (F) Squadron re-formed as 54 (R) Squadron as the Intelligence Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) Operational Conversion Unit to train aircrews from the three ISTAR platforms E-3D Sentry, Nimrod R1 and Sentinel R1.
The present role for 54 Squadron reflects the changes taking place within the RAF as a whole. As a training unit, 54 Squadron is designated 54 (Reserve) Squadron, on reformation, instructional staff from the 23 Squadron Sentry Training Flight,51 Squadron, 5 (Army Co-operation) Squadron and the existing Mission Simulator Flight amalgamated to form the new Squadron, thus enabling 54 (R) Squadron to train personnel to operate 3 of the ISTAR platforms currently based at RAF Waddington.
Students are trained to Limited Combat Ready (LCR) status before being posted to 5(AC), 8 or 51 Squadrons. Furthermore, the instructional staffs maintain their Combat Ready categories and regularly undertake deployments to operational theatres to augment the front-line Squadrons.
The RAF Waddington Standardisation Unit is another key element of 54 (R) Squadron; undertaking evaluation of the standard of operation of all ISTAR platforms, including the REAPER Remotely Piloted Air System currently based at Creech Air Force Base, USA. The standardisation role is vital to both the safe operation and the tactical employment of these assets.
54 (R) Squadron instructors also deliver the Qualified Weapons Instructor Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (QWI ISR) course. A recent initiative which takes specialists from the broad spectrum of ISR platforms and the Direct Process and Disseminate arena and trains them to operate as ISR Subject Matter Experts for the Operational Theatre and training of their peers.
54 (R) Squadron is now looking to the future to continue to train and evaluate cross platform, whilst looking forward to the development of training for new platforms, such as the UK RC-135 V/W ‘Rivet Joint’.
3.0 Air Battlespace Training Centre
The Air Battlespace Training Centre (ABTC) is an HQ 1 Group unit housed in No 1 Hangar at RAF Waddington. Prior to 01 April 2008 it hosted the UK Mission Training through Distributed Simulation Capability Concept Demonstrator. The purpose of the Mission Training through the Distributed Simulation Capability Concept Demonstrator was to de-risk the use of synthetic training environments to deliver operational team and collective training for the air component of the Joint Battlespace. The Capability Concept Demonstrator was completed as planned but the success of the programme led to a decision to retain the ABTC facility beyond 2008 to deliver the Distributed Synthetic Air Land Training project. This Air-Land Integration initiative has focused primarily on the Pre-Deployment Training of Air and Land force elements deploying to Afghanistan.
The facility clearly demonstrated that valuable operational training could be delivered via synthetic means. Since 2008, the Distributed Synthetic Air Land Training project has built upon the existing Mission Training through Distributed Simulation Capability Concept Demonstrator baseline, providing an interim training capability for UK Air, Land and Maritime force elements in National and Coalition synthetic environments, focusing on Team, Collective, Joint and Combined operations. As the requirement to train forces destined for Afghanistan reduces, the ABTC has significantly broadened its training portfolio. It now enables numerous contingent training serials and mission rehearsal exercises, predominantly for Air and Land trainees.
Within the ABTC there are a number of targeted-fidelity aircraft simulators which represent Typhoon, Tornado GR4 and E-3D platforms. The facility also has targeted-fidelity emulators capable of representing AH-64, A-10, F-16, C-130 and SH, as well as Hermes 450 and DH3 UAVs. The addition of a Fire Planning Cell area and three Fire Support Team training facilities allows the realistic and immersive representation of Joint Fires assets, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and Close Air Support (CAS) platforms at all levels. This allows for the practice of complex air-surface integration and battlespace management scenarios within pre-scripted training vignettes and missions. In this way, the facility ensures that the training objectives of any particular audience are met.
In the short-term, the ABTC will continue to support Op HERRICK Pre-deployment Training events. Beyond Op HERRICK, the ABTC has 19 weeks per year assigned to Ex STEEL DRAGON which continues to deliver essential Joint Fires contingent mission training for Land units. The remainder of the year sees a range of other exercises including Ex VIGILANT CENTURION (Joint Fires training for RAF Force Protection units), Ex EAGLE WARRIOR (synthetic tactical leadership training for aircrews), Ex VIRTUAL HATCHET (tactical Air C2 training for ASOC staffs), Ex VIRTUAL MAGIC (distributed training for the NATO E-3 component), Ex MOUNTAIN SERPENT (Joint Fires training for TACP courses), Ex COALITION VIRTUAL FLAG and Ex FALCON FURY (Air C2 for E-3D crews), Ex PANOPTICON WARRIOR (expert-level Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance training for pan-Defence trainees) and Ex RED KITE (a UK/US bi-lateral distributed synthetic training initiative). The facility also remains Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’s platform of choice for 6-weeks of research activity each year, currently being used to inform and de-risk future programmes under the Defence Operational Training Capability banner.
In the longer term, the Defence Operational Training Capability project should come to fruition in 2019, allowing for the networked integration of synthetic platforms across the UK. This will present frontline operators with the opportunity to enter the synthetic battlespace from their own operating bases to exercise with other users in realistic Joint operations, free from the constraints and limitations of many live training serials. In this way, synthetic training will be used smartly to augment rather than replace live events, helping to ensure that our forces retain the capability, competency and readiness levels demanded of them.