RAF Tain Air Weapons Range Operations
RAF Tain provides a training facility for RAF and, occassionally, NATO aircrew on which to practice weapons delivery. The weapons used are a variety of ballistic and forward-firing ordnance and all are released in order to impact on the MOD Surface Danger Area (SDA). The SDA is the area under the control of RAF Tain on which it is safe to allow weapons debris to land. Some of these practice weapons have a smoke and flash charge to indicate the weapon impact position, but none has a High-Explosive content. RAF Tain no longer has an active airfield and the user aircraft come from throughout the United Kingdom. However, the majority of aircraft that routinely use Tain come from RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Leuchars with ocassional visits from USAF F15 aircraft from RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk.
Flying Operations at Tain Range
The inbound/outbound routes and the academic circuit patterns associated with Tain Range are used to manoeuvre aircraft towards and away from the target area on the SDA. Some routes are flown at low level (below 2,000 feet) whilst others are flown higher.
First Run Attack (FRA) Low Level Routes
FRAs are designed to practise a semi-tactical attack run, where the aircrew choose a route into the Range normally at 500 feet but, on ocassion, at 250 feet, the normal heights for low flying. Once the weapon is delivered onto the target, the aircrew either depart away from the Range or enter one of the academic patterns. Essentially, there are 3 inbound FRA routes:
1. From the east, over the water via the Tarbat Ness area.
2. From the west, via Bonar Bridge then down the Kyle of Sutherland.
3. From the south west, via the Cromarty Firth.
Close Air Support (CAS) Exercises
From time to time CAS exercises allow the aircrew to conduct tactical training with Forward Air Controllers (FAC). This means that the FAC will practise controlling the aircraft onto a target of their choise. The FAC will describe the area and desired target to the aircrew, sometimes with the aircaft circling the area with the aircrew looking at the target area, only making their attack run when they have identified the correct target. The main difference with CAS training is that the aircraft may be seen to approach the Range from any direction. The FACs and aircrew still have to maintain the local self-imposed avoidance criteria. However, the aircraft may appear to be close to sensitive areas whilst still being either outside the prescibed minimum lateral distance or above the minimum height for that area or place.
Academic Circuit Patterns
In order to get the maximum training value out of a sortie, repeated passes are made to the target area utilising academic circuit patterns. The circuit patterns at Tain are designed, first and foremost, to allow aircrew to deliver weapons in a safe manner. However, adjustments are made to the ideal patterns to reduce the noise impact on the local population. In addition to the normal flying regulations, there are further self-imposed restrictions written into the Range Standing Orders in an attempt to minimise the noise disturbance to the maximum number of people. Essentially, we avoid the population clusters such as towns and villages. Unfortunately, this means that we have to fly over the rural, less populated areas of the countryside. The four academic circuits are:
1. Passing over the target area heading north east, then turning right and climbing to 2,000 feet or above over the Tarbat peninsula, from the Portmahomack area to Fearn airfield. From Fearn airfield turning back to the target area, descending when heading north east.
2. Passing over the target area heading north east, then turning left and climbing to 2,000 feet or above over the Dornoch Firth, passing north and west of Tain before turning back to the target area, descending when heading north east.
3. Passing over the target area heading west, then turning right at low level, staying south of Dornoch over the Dornoch Firth heading north east before turning back to the target area heading west.
4. Passing over the target area heading west, then turning right and climbing to 2,000 feet or above to the west and north of Dornoch then heading east. When over the Dornoch Firth descending to the desired height before turning back to the target area heading west.
Flying Operations Times
Tain Range currently runs its flying program during the day time, though night time flying operations occur frequently, depending on the training requirements of the user units. The current opening hours for weapons training at RAF Tain are as follows:
Mondays to Thurdays 0900-2200 hours.
Fridays 0900-1400 hours.
The academic circuit over the Tarbat peninsula is currently closed as follows:
1. 1100-1200 and 1600-1700 hours daily during BST.
2. 1500-1700 hours daily during winter.
In addition to the times that RAF Tain is open for training, the unit is open for maintenance. This maintenance is required to clear the target areas and to repair or replace the structures that are used for weaponry practice. Prior to the contractors’ personnel being permitted onto the target areas, Explosive Ordnance Clearance is carried out by RAF armaments personnel from our parent station at RAF Lossiemouth. This is in order to check for any smoke/flash charges on weapons that have been dropped, which may have failed to activate. Any devices which have failed to activate are detonated by using a small charge of Plastic Explosives. Consequently, detonations may be heard during the maintenance periods, which are:
Fridays 1400 (or cease flying, if earlier) -1700 hours.
Saturdays 0900-1600 hours.
Summer Explosive Ordnance Clearance Week
Additionally, in-depth maintenance is carried out during the summer in order to recover weapons from the remoter areas of the Range that are relatively waterlogged during the wetter months. This summer clearance period normally takes place during the second week in August, timed to match the Carnegie Shield golf competition at nearby Royal Dornoch Golf Course.
Certain other times are regarded as 'quiet times' when flying may be restricted for the public's convienence.
The UK is split into a number of Low Flying Areas, or LFA. RAF Tain is situated at the north-eastern boundary of LFA 14.
Low Flying Complaints
Complaints about disturbance from aircraft operating at, or in the vicinity of RAF Tain may be referred to our administration staff as follows:
1. Telephone on 01862892185.
2. Via Email DIOOpsDTE-TainAdmin@mod.uk
Alternatively, complaints may be referred directly to the MoD Military Low Flying Aircraft Complaints department as follows
1. By telephone on 0207 218 6020.
2. Via E-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full details about how to register a compliant about Military Low Flying are found at MoD Military Low Flying Complaints
Additionally there is a website which provides further information on military low flying and additional contact details; please visit the MoD Low Flying Today website
Tain Liaison Group
Owing to the sensitivity of the noise disturbance caused by military training, a liaison group has operated for many years where the MOD meets with local representatives to discuss the concerns of the local population and what mitigation can be taken to minimise the noise impact and disturbance caused.