Harrier Diary 1
The No 1 (Fighter) Squadron Operation Corporate Diary
Reproduced by kind permission of Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire, Chief of the Air Staff
Friday 2 April
The Squadron is programmed for an AOC's Parade Rehearsal, it's Inspection being due on Thursday 29 April. The Squadron is also committed to play in a 5-a-side football competition that afternoon at 1415. Needless to say, however, the crew room conversation is dominated by the news of the Argentinean invasion of the Falkland Islands. The GLO, Major John Moseley, is asked to look out a map in order to confirm the exact whereabouts of the Islands. The flexibility of the Harrier makes it an obvious choice for any retaliation but the deployment options look sparse indeed. A popular choice would be to be held in reserve in Rio de Janeiro.
Thursday 8 April
The Squadron has enjoyed a quiet week preparing for the forthcoming ferry flight of eight aircraft to Canada for Exercise Maple Flag. We have also had aircraft at Lyneham and Hullavington to film sequences for the TV Series "Squadron".
In the Mess that afternoon as everyone relaxes for the Easter Grant, the Station Commander - Group Captain Pat King - receives a signal from MoD asking for details of operational requirements to cater for possible involvement in the South Atlantic. In particular, ACAS(Ops) - AVM Ken Hayr - proposes DACT with the French Air Force.
I discuss with Pat King in the Ladies Room and our response to MoD includes the DACT, operational weapon deliveries and Ultra Low Flying. We also urge that consideration be given to the fitting of Sidewinder.
Saturday 10 April
A further signal is received from MoD warning a possible deployment. Discussions with Pat King, dressed in pyjamas and dressing gowns are becoming a habit. As a result of this second signal, there is a need to recce the container ship Atlantic Conveyor, which is currently in Liverpool Docks. The aim will be to see if the deck offers sufficient space for Harrier embarkment. Squadron Leader Bob Iveson (Flight Commander) and Bruce Sobey (SENGO) will do this.
In the meantime, we query the wisdom of continuing with deployment to Canada, planned for 13 April. Strike Command confirms that the Exercise should continue.
The Atlantic Conveyor undergoing modifications in Liverpool Docks
Tuesday 13 April
We deploy as planned with 8 aircraft to Goose Bay. It is my first long ferry flight using AAR and, as such, will prove to be a very useful dress rehearsal for what is to come. After the 6hr 40mins flight, the INAS on my aircraft is less than 1.5nm out without any updates en-route. At Goose we hand the aircraft onto RAFG pilots and the following day we fly home in a Nimrod, arriving at Wittering at about 10pm.
The recce of Atlantic Conveyor confirms that with some modifications, the deck can be used as a platform for both Harriers and helicopters. Furthermore, it's 5 car decks can also be loaded with enormous quantities of stores.
Wednesday 14 April
MoD is very keen to obtain publicity photographs of Harrier GR3s using the ski-jump. We have aircraft ready to fly to Yeovilton but as yet there is no CofA clearance.
At the same time, it is decided that a number of modifications are essential if the GR3 is to be operated from the deck. These include shackles on the outriggers, modification of the nose wheel steering and a means of aligning the INAS platform on a moving deck.
All postings on the Squadron are frozen and pilot reinforcements are chosen from those with recent experience on the Squadron - Squadron Leader "Bomber" Harris (CTTO), Squadron Leader Tim Smith (3(F) Sqn) and Flt Lt Ross Boyens (Chivenor).
Thursday 15 April
All postings from the Squadrons are frozen and I request pilot reinforcements to cater for a full deployment. The first four to be earmarked all have recent experience on 1(F). They are Sqn Ldr Peter Harris (CTTO), Flt Lt Ross Boyens (TWU), Flt Lt Jim Arkell (OCU) and Squadron Leader Tim Smith (3(F) Sqn). In the meantime Lt Cdr Al Craig has been recalled by the RN and Capt Skip Beasley (USAF) ordered to take no part.
In the afternoon CofA release for the GR3 to use the ski-jump is received and the first 3 pilots deploy to Yeovilton to carry out training.
Friday 16 April
Ski-jump training continues at Yeovilton while the planned deployment to Cyprus (filming for "Squadron") is cancelled.
Wittering is tasked to deploy up to 12 aircraft on or about 26 April. Modification programme for the aircraft starts in earnest to provide deck capability. Modifications include I-Band transponder (for IMC recoveries), shackles, active nose wheel steering, hardened limiters for the JPTL system and anti-corrosion treatment. The possibility of an AAM fit is still being considered.
Gütersloh asked to provide additional aircraft so operational training can continue. Additional pilots will include Flt Lt Clive Loader as of 19 April.
Ski-jump trials at Yeovilton
Saturday 17 April
In response to requests from higher authority for detailed UASTs, the Squadron seeks more information on its likely employment. The questions we need answer to include:- what role (air defence or attack), split between CVs, rates of effort, possible basing ashore? As answers are not forthcoming we end up in trying to provide support packages to meet all eventualities. This is particularly time consuming for FS George Mullings.
At the same time, we continue to press for an AIM-9 capability; even a cardboard mock up, if photographed and publicly displayed, could be to our advantage.
Sunday 18 April
We receive a signal confirming the deployment of 1(F), first to Ascension Island and subsequently to Falkland Islands.
Monday 19 April
Initial deployment plan received. Nine aircraft to deploy to Ascension Island between 26 and 28 April. Six will join the Task Force and these will remain at Ascension Island for air defence duties. Eighteen NCOs will provide GR3 expertise split between both CVs, and remainder of the Squadron will follow for subsequent operations from ashore.
Reinforcement pilots begin to arrive and we carry out training programme of DACT with Hunters from Brawdy.
The 7 pilots who will go south are; Jerry Pook, Bob Iveson, Tony Harper, John Rochfort, Mark Hare, Ross Boyens and Geoff Glover. Bomber Harris and Tim Smith will remain at Ascension Island while Gavin Mackay commands the remainder of the Squadron.
Tuesday 20 April
The Squadron carries out live CBU drops against a splash target off the east coast. I fly with Nick Gilchrist in a T4; Nick will go to do the QWI course while we go south - he is understandably disappointed.
Gavin, too, receives with mixed feelings the news that he is to remain in command of the "war" party which in effect is well over 50% of the Squadron. In this capacity he is destined to do a magnificent job.
Wednesday 21 April
I attend a meeting at HQ 18 Gp chaired by the Chief of Staff. We are briefed on the concept of an amphibious assault followed by the building of a Harrier site ashore.
The concept for GR3 employment is still uncertain but we are given the following assumptions:-
sustained period of operations in cold climate from bare base
re-supply within 22 days
12 aircraft in AD role armed with guns and AIM-9
initial weapons provision 48 AAMs plus 5,760 rounds 30mm
sortie length 45mins
8 sorties per day.
We are tasked to provide detailed UASTs and estimate of peak sortie rate.
Notwithstanding the AD employment, I ask for the provisions of LGBs.
Thursday 22 April
I fly with Bob Iveson to Yeovilton for a meeting with Captain Mike Layand, who will be the Senior Naval Officer embarked in Atlantic Conveyor (ACO). Also there was Lt Cdr Tim George, CO 809 NAS, whose Sea Harriers will also be loaded onto ACO.
Friday 23 April
Squadrons involved in DACT with Mirage and Etendard aircraft of the French Armed Forces. The Mirages operate from Coningsby to retain some anonymity while the Etendard merely fly to rendezvous' off the south east coast. Nevertheless, it is good experience and some crews got the chance to fly in the back seat of a Mirage.
Following the successful design of an AIM-9 fit, missiles are allocated for practice firings at Aberporth.
Sidewinders cleared for use
Saturday 24 April
Deployment date delayed until at least 1 May. This thankfully will give more time before to complete the modification programme which is enormously manpower intensive. The whole of Engineering Wing is working round the clock to modify an initial batch of 12 aircraft in order to get 9 to Ascension Island. In addition, of course, the engineers have to support a daily flying programme, which, while not intensive, is very varied.
ACO - Atlantic Conveyor.
AAM : Air-to-Air Missile.
AAR : Air-to-air refuelling.
AD : Air Defence.
ATC : Air Traffic Control.
CBU : Cluster Bomb Unit.
CofA : Certificate of Airworthiness. Required for aircraft modifications to be cleared for operational use.
CTTO : Central Trials and Tactics Organisation.
CVs : Aircraft carriers.
DACT : Dissimilar Air Combat Training. 'Dog-fighting' against different types of aircraft.
IMC : Instrument Meteorological Conditions. Flying by referring to cockpit instruments only.
INAS : Inertial Navigation and Attack System.
LGBs : Laser-Guided Bombs.
QWI : Qualified Weapons Instructor.
RAFG : Royal Air Force Germany. Latterly No 2 Group before the closure of RAF bases in Germany.
SENGO : Senior Engineering Officer. Usually a Squadron Leader. His deputy is the JENGO (Junior Engineering Officer), most commonly a Flight Lieutenant, but can be a Flying Officer. In the latter case, RAF parlance describes them as 'BENGOs' (Baby Engineering Officers).
TWU : Tactical Weapons Unit. Weapon training course carried out between completion of flying training and posting to squadron.
UASTs : Urgent Air Staff Targets. Better described by their current title - Urgent Operational Requirements.