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RAF(U) Swanwick in Hampshire is an Air Command Unit embedded within the London Area Control Centre run by National Air Traffic Services (NATS). Military and civilian Air Traffic Control staff work together to ensure the safe passage of civilian and military aircraft flying over England, Scotland and Wales (and their coastal waters).
The Distress and Diversion Cell at RAF(U) Swanwick is an emergency centre ready to assist aircraft in distress.
The Military Airspace Booking and Co-ordination Cell manage the segregation of large areas of airspace for unrestricted military training.
The Radar Analysis Cell work closely with the UK Airprox Board to provide radar data for investigations.
The Station is also home to the RAF Northolt radar controllers.
The Pilot Guide gives some key information for civilian pilots, flying instructors and students.
Wing Commander Currie has been in the RAF as an Air Traffic Controller since April 1997.
He took command of RAF(U) Swanwick in August 2017 after tours at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, NATO’s strategic level headquarters, initially as a Strategic Plans Officer and then Branch Head for the Operations Assessment Branch.
RAF(U) Swanwick, Sopwith Way, Swanwick, Hampshire, SO31 7AY.
To facilitate unrestricted military training large areas of airspace are segregated from other users as required. It is the responsibility of the Military Airspace Booking and Co-ordination Cell to ensure that the airspace is effectively utilised by military and civil flights.
The Distress and Diversion Cell (D&D) is the emergency centre of RAF(U) Swanwick based at the London Area Control Centre near Southampton. The primary role of the D&D staff is to provide pilots with an emergency aid and position fixing service.
Almost instantaneous aircraft position fixing by the auto-triangulation of DF bearings is available to D&D staff on 121.500MHz and 243.00MHz over most of the UK land-mass above 3000ft and down to 2000ft in the vicinity of the London Airports. This emergency service is available continuously to pilots flying within UK airspace who are in distress; in urgent need of assistance or who are experiencing difficulties which could lead to a state of emergency.
D&D is also responsible for activating Temporary Danger Areas (TDAs) in order to provide a level of protection to Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopters at the scene of an incident.
The RAC conducts tracing action on behalf of the UKAB and uses a variety of measures to identify the aircraft and pilot involved. The UKAB exists to promote Flight Safety by determining the causes of all Airprox in UK airspace and promulgating the lessons identified.
Tasked by a variety of agencies, it assists with Airprox, ATC/flying incidents and suspicious aircraft activity within UK airspace.
Agencies tasking the RAC include the UKAB, Defence Flying Complaints Investigation Team, military HQs and airfields, HM Revenue and Customs/UK Border Agency, UK Special Branch units, QinetiQ and the CAA. The tasking linked to these agencies include any combination of Military or Civil Airprox, noise complaints, unauthorised supersonic flights, airspace breaches, financial claims relating to military flying activities, alleged UFO sightings, aircraft suspected of involvement in criminal activities, military aircraft accidents, flight statistics linked to Freedom Of Information requests and flight trials involving military aircraft.
Area radar came into existence in the late 1950s after it was found that the radars used by fighter controllers were also very good at providing radar coverage to aircraft transiting at high level.
Initially, there were three main military area radar units in the United Kingdom; RAF Sopley, RAF Lindholme and RAF Watton. In 1959, area radar control was introduced to RAF Sopley. During 1960s and 1970s both civil and military controllers worked there being known as the Southern Radar.
Also in the late 1950s, RAF Lindholme became the home of the Northern Radar. It provided radar services across the country using its Type 82 radar as well as links to other military radar heads.
In the mid 1960s RAF Watton became the home of Eastern & Border radar. Eastern radar operated between 1965-1988 and Border radar operated between 1989-1992.
In 1966 the London Air Traffic Control Centre (LATCC) opened in West Drayton. This centre became the area radar hub for many years where both civilian and military controllers worked alongside each other to provide radar services to a large parts of the UK.
2002 saw civilian area radar units move to Swanwick whilst the military and terminal control centres remained at West Drayton. It wasn’t until 2007 / 2008 that all radar units were located at Swanwick along with the Distress and Diversion Cell.
Northern radar, initially at Lindholme, moved to RAF Prestwick in Scotland until December 2013 when the military controllers all co-located to Swanwick. North civilian counterparts remain at Prestwick.
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