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RAF Boulmer in Northumberland is a critical component of the RAF Battlespace Management Force and home to the Air Surveillance and Control System (ASACS).
The Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) at RAF Boulmer uses ground-based military and civilian radars to monitor, detect and identify all aircraft in and around UK airspace - 24/7, 365 days a year. This is called the Recognised Air Picture (RAP). The Quick Reaction Alert Typhoons at RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Coningsby can be scrambled to intercept unidentified aircraft.
RAF Boulmer is also home to the RAF School of Aerospace Battle Management (SABM), a worldwide centre of excellence on leading-edge battlespace management training and education for the UK Armed Forces, NATO and other foreign national military personnel.
Around 1,000 Service, civilian and contracted personnel work at RAF Boulmer.
Group Captain K S ‘Chesh’ Cowieson joined the RAF in 1989. Commissioned in 1992, he assumed command of RAF Boulmer in August 2018. Before that he was Programme Director for the UK Ballistic Missile Defence Programme, the RAF’s Space Programme and the Defence-wide Link 16 Sustainment Programme and completed tours at RAF Neatishead, RAF High Wycombe, RAF Innsworth, RAF Shawbury and the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre. Group Captain Cowieson has also served at RAF Boulmer on five previous occasions, and has been deployed to Afghanistan, Italy, USA, Malaysia, Canada, Crete, Cyprus and France.
RAF Boulmer, Alnwick, Northumberland, NE66 3JF.
The mission of Battlespace Management Operations (BM Ops) is to execute and manage an agile and adaptable tactical Air Command and Control capability, including the provision of Area Air Traffic Management that contributes to the delivery of Air Power in the UK and on contingency operations worldwide.
With the stand-up of the BM Ops organisation at RAF Boulmer in 2016, the Station Commander also has the operational role of Gp Capt BM Ops, responsible for the generation, sustainment and operational output of both the Air Surveillance and Control System (ASACS) and Area Air Traffic Management functions.
The mission of the Control and Reporting Centre is to police NATO Air Policing Area 1 and train for out-of-area operations.
The Control and Reporting Centre at RAF Boulmer is tasked with compiling a Recognised Air Picture within NATO Air Policing Area 1 and providing tactical control of the Quick Reaction Alert Force. The CRC also supports the training of students undergoing training at the School of Aerospace Battle Management and controls military aircraft on routine training missions.
In summary, the CRC is manned 24/7 to support both NATO and national Quick Reaction Alert requirements.
The RAF School of Aerospace Battle Management (SABM) provide training and tactical Aerospace Battle Management (ABM), to the highest possible standard to support both an agile and adaptable Air Command and Control capability.
The School delivers training for RAF Aerospace Battle Management officers, SNCOs and airmen/airwomen of the Aerospace Systems Operator/Manager trades as well as the wider UK Armed Forces, NATO and other foreign national military personnel. With over 600 students attending one of 120 courses a year, the School is a worldwide centre of excellence providing leading-edge battlespace management training and education.
The ASACS Business Management Team, based in Station Headquarters at RAF Boulmer, is responsible for delivering the overarching governance and assurance of all business management and support services across the Air Surveillance and Control System (ASACS). Specifically, the Business Manager is the owner of the ASACS Business Plan and is responsible for ensuring that all business activities are identified and accurately reported in order to secure adequate funding to enable the ASACS to fulfil operational outputs.
The mission of RAF Boulmer Support Wing is to provide timely administrative and specialist services in support of units and personnel at, or parented by, RAF Boulmer.
Support Wing has approximately 200 Service and Civilian personnel, the majority of whom work from the Main Site. The Wing comprises three Squadrons:
· Force Development Squadron
· Personnel Management Squadron
· Management Support Squadron
· Station Health, Energy and the Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development (SHEPSD) section
· Human Resource Business Partner (HRBP)
The Station Chaplain and SSAFA Forces Help Worker are also situated within Support Wing in Station Headquarters on the RAF Boulmer Main Site.
At the very heart of the UK air defence network; Engineering staff provide continuous 24-hour support to ASACS and stand ready, at a moment’s notice, to deal swiftly and proactively with the many changes that are frequently thrown their way.
ASACS Eng Sqn consists of a number of different elements including:
· Engineering Squadron Headquarters
· Communication and Information Systems (CIS) Flight
· Radar Flight (North) which consists of RRH Benbecula, RRH Brizlee Wood, RRH Buchan and RRS Saxa Vord
· Radar Flight (South), which consists of RRH Neatishead, RRH Staxton Wold and RRH Portreath
The Saxa Vord site in the Shetland Islands has had a radar since 1957, which gives early warning of any aircraft approaching from the North. This data is fed into the Integrated Command and Control System within the UK.
Operational as an Air Defence unit for 60 years, the RAF has had a presence in the area since 1940, when land near Boulmer was used as a decoy airfield to draw attacking Luftwaffe aircraft away from the nearby operational airfield at RAF Acklington. However, as the air threat to the UK receded, the decoy airfield was abandoned.
In 1953, the onset of the Cold War caused the Royal Air Force to look anew at its defences and Boulmer was selected for the construction of an air defence control centre equipped with new radar and control facilities.
In 1957 Boulmer was designated a Group Control Centre, this gradually increased in importance and by 1974 the Station had evolved to become both a Sector Operations Centre and Control and Reporting Centre.
The role of RAF Boulmer was expanded in 1975 with the arrival of 'A' Flight 202 Squadron in the Search and Rescue role, providing 37 years of Search and Rescue at RAF Boulmer.
In 1990, Boulmer saw the arrival of the School of Fighter Control from RAF West Drayton. In 2009 the Fighter Control Branch was rebranded as Aerospace Battle Management, and the School of Fighter Control became the School of Aerospace Battle Management.
RAF Boulmer has played a key role in UK air defence for 60 years with continuous improvements to its systems and radars during a series of extensive refurbishment programmes.
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