The RAF's Air Transport and Air-to-Air Refuelling fleets are undergoing a revolution in capability, through aircraft acquisition, and in efficiency, through force restructuring.
On April 1, 2012, the Royal Air Force stood up the Air Mobility Force (AMF), under the command of Air Commodore Jon Ager. The AMF is one of seven planned Forces, alongside ISTAR; Force Protection; A4 (Air Logistics in support of expeditionary warfare); A6 (Air Computers and Information Systems); Typhoon; and Tornado. The change was driven by a need to slim down the RAF’s structure to better reflect requirements after the Strategic Defence and Security Review.
While perhaps radical in concept, for the Air Mobility Force the change represented a logical evolution. Comprising the bases at RAF Northolt and RAF Brize Norton, the AMF delivers a range of capabilities, through those of the larger passenger and freight-carrying Air Transport (AT) aircraft, and the more tactical, focused effects of the Hercules, to the Command Support Air Transport (CSAT) provided by its fleet of smaller aircraft.
There are also the Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) assets, which are currently undergoing a significant period of change with the introduction of a new aircraft type, the Airbus Military Voyager. The AMF provides Defence parachute training and is ably supported by 47 Air Dispatch Regiment (Royal Logistics Corps) in the delivery of airborne forces equipment. Air Commodore Ager notes: “The formation of the Air Mobility Force is a natural next step that will allow us to prepare our people better for the demands of today’s and tomorrow’s operational challenges. But it is a journey that will only be complete once the Force has reconfigured around the introduction of its new aircraft and support facilities.”
With the transfer of the C-130K and C-130J Hercules Force from RAF Lyneham in July 2011, significant investment has gone into RAF Brize Norton. New hangar facilities address temporary arrangements put in place to meet the tight timeline needed to achieve Lyneham’s closure. Simulators have been relocated, and squadron accommodation has been overhauled and improved. But these are only the tip of the iceberg.
Supporting units, such as 1 Air Movements Squadron and Tactical Medical Wing, have also had to be accommodated, both functionally, with new office facilities and equipment compounds, and with an ambitious programme to provide over 1,200 modern, en suite bedrooms for single personnel. Lyneham’s move is not the only factor that has visibly influenced a change in the landscape at Brize Norton, however, with Air Tanker’s two-aircraft Voyager hangar and synthetic training facility complementing the iconic 1960s’ Base Hangar. The less visible, yet most important benefit of this restructuring is that the AMF has the majority of its critical assets in one place, with an opportunity to streamline the way that it does business – this it will do under the banner 'Programme Future Brize’.