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Chapter 9 - RAF Boulmer

The first step towards the transition from West Drayton to RAF Boulmer was made on 8th Aug 1989 when Air Commodore Joan Hopkins laid the first concrete pile for the new SFC building on the operations site at RAF Boulmer (59). The School itself, the first custom built home of the SFC, was opened by Her Grace the Duchess of Northumberland on 11th October 1990 (60).

Visits by School personnel have always been an integral part, and popular feature of fighter controller training, so it should come as no surprise that the School at RAF Boulmer continued the tradition. Initially visits were made to RAF Leuchars, SHAPE, for discussions on JTIDS, HQ 11 Gp and even Dundridge College, that well known off-shoot of the SFC and employer of ancient (nay! redundant) fighter control instructors (that should give rise to a few nasty letters).

The School has never been wary of innovation, as shall be seen over the next few paragraphs, and so a Foreign Exchange Officers Course was instigated in Jul 91. The first course consisted of two USAF officers, one on posting to RAF Buchan the other on posting to RAF Boulmer. Meanwhile, the School's prodigious output of RAF personnel continued apace, with the following course numbers being achieved:

  • Air Defence Executive No 2
  • Master Controller No 14
  • Fighter Allocator No 25
  • Interception Control No 199
  • Air Defence Foundation Course No 15
  • Identification and Recognition Officer No 173
  • Further Training Course No 1 (commenced 7 Jul 91)

A note of social history from the one time OC School and then Station Commander Group Captain Ted Ward's comments for the F540 in July 1991, "Socially very active, culminating in the wedding of my eldest daughter".

During December 1991 four psychologists from Science 3 (Air), Lacon House, visited the SFC to study Interception Control wastage. This entry reminded me of another study done by Stirling University when the School was located at RAF West Drayton in the early 80s. Students undergoing training on console had a large, presumably heavy and painful contraption strapped to their heads, which looked suspiciously like a torture device from a 1930s horror movie when an attempt was being made to suck out an individual's brain. The intention was to measure the actions and reactions of intercept controllers as they worked. Many measurements were taken and recorded; the whole study cost MOD in the region of £40,000. Oh! yes, the results? Apparently, the heavier the controller workload, the faster his eyes move! Well I never; or, as they say in Yorkshire, "Who'd a' thowt."

SFC personnel, in conjunction with the local Round Table, have become heavily involved in Exercise Raw Deal, a civil/military outdoor exercise designed to test the resourcefulness of the individual teams and to raise money for charity. During the period 5-7 Jun 92, it was conducted at Clennell Hall in the Cheviot Hills. That year's exercise gave rise to the following quote in the F540, "Exercise Raw Deal went well apart from a totally destroyed Landrover. The Flying Officer driver is now in the Falkland Islands." Harsh but fair? Is anyone out there willing to own up? Also in that year the first Man Machine Interface (MMI) Course, for the new Improved UK AD Ground Environment system commenced on 21st Sep, technology was rearing its ugly head even at the SFC.

Sadly, I can find no mention in the F540 of a truly momentous innovation for the School; the employment of its first civilian instructor, a certain Mr Tony Pleasant. He was employed as a Higher Instructional Officer (HIO) from 10 May 93. The success of his employment paved the way for the many HIOs who followed. As there had only been a Royal Visit, an Annual Formal Inspection by AOC No 11 Gp and the Air Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland (AOSNI) to detract from this event during May 93, it appears to have been an inexcusable oversight in the Unit's history.

Although the School has become accustomed to hosting many visits throughout the years, 1993 was worthy of particular interest. On 13 May the School was honoured by a visit from Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Gloucester as part of a tour of RAF Boulmer. This was closely followed on 30 Jun by a significant "first"; a two-day visit by General Csurgay, the Chief of the Hungarian Air Defence System. During the visit, he presented certificates to the graduating officers of number 178 IDRO Course. There were also visits from members of the Indonesian, Malaysian, Singaporean and Canadian Air Forces.

July 1993 saw the introduction of Computer Based Training (CBT). The tried and tested overhead projector view-foils gradually gave way to software driven TV presentations; goodbye view-foils, hello, Powerpoint. New courses were gradually introduced over the next few months including a Link 16 course, which commenced with a pilot course for Air Defence Executives during May, a trial Interception Controller Combat Ready Course during Oct, the first Battle Staff Management Course lasting from 1 to 5 Nov and a trial Combat Ready IDRO course in Jan 1994.

The courses therefore being taught had expanded considerably to the comprehensive list shown below

  • No 24 ADFC
  • No 7 ADFC (IC Module)
  • No 334 Basic ASOp
  • No 20 MC
  • No 38 Data Links Managers Course
  • No 4 ADFC (IDRO Module)
  • No 40 Track Production Officers (TPO) Course
  • No 18 IUKADGE Course
  • No 27 Initial Training Course
  • No 52 Data Links Operators Course
  • No 178 IDRO Course
  • No 23 ADFC
  • No 179 IDRO Course
  • No 335 Basic ASOp Course
  • No 209 Intercept Controllers Course

A busy little Unit.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Lord Dowding of Bentley Priory GCB GCVO CMG, was Air Officer Commanding in Chief of Fighter Command 1936 - 1940. As such he was the architect of the RAF's inspirational defence of the UK in what became known as the Battle of Britain. It therefore came as no surprise when the new Air Defence Battle Management Centre, an addition to the SFC opened on 25 Apr 93, was named after him. The motto of this advanced wargaming centre is "SI VIS PACEM PARA BELLUM" which translated means, "HE WHO DESIRES PEACE PREPARES FOR WAR" ....most befitting. For would-be Battle Managers the quotation has been roughly translated to read, "MAKE YOUR MISTAKES DURING PEACE....GET IT RIGHT DURING WAR". A further interpretation, for the older reader, could be "IF WE HAD GOT IT WRONG LAST TIME WE WOULD ALL BE SPEAKING GERMAN". Appropriately another prototype course, the Air Defence Commander's course, was inaugurated in November 1994.

In Feb 1995 two "useful" visits took place. Firstly, "........ a team from the Central Flying School (CFS)....( backwards SFC? Ed.) based at RAF Scampton visited the SFC to look at ab-initio courses. Although the CFS team found nothing wrong with the SFC training methods it is likely they will have to return next month to conduct a more in-depth investigation". Secondly "On 14 Feb the Chief Constable of Cumbria viewed the training facilities in the SFC....." The entry fails to mention if the Chief Constable found anything wrong with the SFC training methods! Incidentally there is no mention of a further visit from CFS. Visitors from foreign Air Forces during the period May 94 to May 95 included representatives from Thailand, Norway, Sweden, Hungary, Australia, Saudi Arabia and the USA. It is unclear whether those visitors were responsible, but, in Aug 1995 training for International Students, formerly known as Foreign and Commonwealth training, was re-introduced with two officers from the Singaporean Air Force. Since then, the School has completed 3 further international courses. One was for a Malaysian controller who was successful in completing the full IC Phase 1 training, and Norwegian students completed 2 International Air Defence Executive Courses. In the following few years, heightened interest was shown in the activities and techniques at the School, occasioning visits from the military staffs of Sweden, Poland, Romania, Holland, Italy, Canada and in March 99 the School experienced another first when two Japanese officers, Colonel Kazuyuki Tanaka and Major Tetsuya Akaki, representing the Japanese Air Self Defence Forces visited the School's updated facilities. This visit was closely followed by 5 officers from the Canadian Armed Forces involved in the training of equivalent skills. By contrast, a week later on 26 March 99, the School hosted a visit of 6 Friars from the Friary of St Francis at Alnmouth. Apparently, none expressed an interest in joining the Branch.

The most important, far-reaching reorganization of the School since the ad-hoc split in the Branch in 1979 occurred following an annual review of the ICC syllabus during early May 1995. During the review it was discovered that the Syllabus, Instructional Specification and SFC ICC Course Schedule were at variance with each other and the needs of the front-line interception force. Therefore ".....a major review and rewrite of the ICC syllabus...." was directed by HQ No 11/18 Gp, " reflect the current course schedule". A Syllabus Review Board was duly convened in Jun 95 to address the problems highlighted in May. In Jun 1996 a Course Design Team was assembled at the School to redesign completely the manner in which Fighter Control Weapons Controllers were trained (you will notice that since "they" stopped changing the name of the School they have started changing the name of the specialization). In Jan 97 a Course Implementation Plan was produced and Weapons Control Course (WCC) 1 commenced on 14 Apr 97. At approximately the same time the Royal Air Force SFC Mission Statement was introduced and it reads, "To provide training for officers and airmen in fighter control and air battle management, to the highest possible standard, and to make the maximum contribution to No. 11/18 Gp's operational mission."

Although not wishing to bore you with too much detail I feel this momentous change in training methods warrants a thorough explanation.

The (WCC) now consists of 5 Phases. These are designed to take an ab-initio student, who has been streamed for the Weapons Specialization from the ADFC, to Combat Ready status within two years. Although this may seem an inordinately long time it should be remembered that, not too long ago, some controllers never achieved Combat Ready status. The WCC comprises the following:

PHASE 1 Phase 1 is designed to instruct up to 30 students each year. The phase uses radar display simulation and lasts 28 weeks at the SFC. The Phase is broken down into 5 Modules:

Air Traffic Control Module. This 6 week module is aimed at teaching ATC services in isolation from intercept techniques. It covers radar and non-radar services, co-ordination, departure and recovery procedures, airspace, the use of Secondary Surveillance Radar (SSR), meteorology, basic emergency procedures and diversions. Up to 3 simulated aircraft are controlled simultaneously with up to 2 ATC control services being applied.

Close Control 1. This 7 week module is aimed at teaching students basic control techniques. Various intercept geometries are taught: collisions, sterns, collisions converting to sterns and targets of opportunity.

Bullseye Module. This 4 week module teaches the student the techniques and procedures to be used when providing Bullseye control. It includes the control of 1v1, 2v1, 1v2, and 2v2 interceptions. The module also introduces methods of controlling basic emergencies. One week of the Module is reserved for Resource and Initiative Training - outdoor team building activities.

Close Control 2. This 7 week Module teaches the student advanced control techniques. Towards the end of the module more complicated sorties are introduced with Air Combat Training, Bat and Ball techniques, Quick Reaction Alert procedures and Air to Air Refuelling being taught.

Control and Reporting Centre (CRC) Module. This 4 week module attempts to simulate the live environment that the student will encounter during Phase 2 training at either CRC Buchan or CRC Neatishead.

At the end of each module the student is given "slip tests" which are designed to prepare the student for the type of examination, and the form the End of Module Check (EMC) will take. A period of consolidation is given between the "slip tests" and the EMC during which instruction can be centred on any weaknesses that have been highlighted, and there is also a Theory Test. Should a student be unsuccessful in the tests there is the option of remedial training, which usually requires a second attempt from the beginning of the Module concerned. Upon completing successfully the Module, the student progresses to the next Module; being unsuccessful at an earlier stage is of no consequence. During Phase 1 the students visit the London Area Traffic Control Centre (LATCC) at West Drayton, a fighter squadron at RAF Coningsby and CRC Neatishead.

(MMI). MMI is a 3 week course designed to acquaint students with the equipment used during Phase 2 training.

PHASE 2. Phase 2 is an 18 week phase carried out at a CRC. It includes live flying and is conducted by SFC personnel detached to the CRCs at Buchan and Neatishead. On completion of the phase the controller is awarded a Certificate of Qualification (CQ). During Phase 2 the students visit LATCC, AMTC Henlow, Brize Norton, for a tanking experience flight and RAF Leeming for a trip in a Hawk aircraft.

PHASE 3. Phase 3 of the course provides training to achieve Limited Combat Ready (LCR) status and is also taught at the CRCs. The training is provided by the Controller Training Officer (CTO) and his staff at the CRC and is no longer the responsibility of the SFC. The training should be completed not more than 4 months after the award of a CQ.

PHASE 4. Phase 4 is a formal course of 3 1/2 weeks at the SFC to provide further training towards Combat Ready (CR) status.

PHASE 5. Phase 5 has the same aim as Phase 4, namely progress towards CR status, but is conducted at the CRCs using the CTO and Air Defence Ground Environment (ADGE) Qualified Weapons Instructors (QWIs) and Weapons Training Instructors (WTIs). In normal circumstances, Phase 5 should be completed within 12 months of the award of a CQ.


Just 2 years after this significant change to all aspects of training WCs, a further syllabus review meeting was convened at RAF Boulmer on 19 Apr 99. One of the main reasons for the need to look, yet again, at the syllabus is succinctly outlined in the first decision of the minutes of the meeting,

1. "Due to the change in op requirement, the WCC Phase 1 Manager was to:

Introduce training objectives (TO) for the inclusion of Target Aspect intercept geometry into the Phase 1 and Phase 2 syllabuses.

Remove the TOs for all other forms of intercept geometry from the WCC Phase 1 and Phase 2 syllabuses."

The Phase 1 manager was also to:

Re-order the existing WCC Phase 1 TOs into the following 3 modules, to provide a more balanced and efficient training curve:

Flight Safety

Loose Control

Advanced Control

Introduce TOs for the inclusion of Coffee Alpha and "Rolling Bullseye" sorties into the WCC Phase 1 and Phase 2 syllabuses, to reflect the increase of these sorties in day-to-day ops.

Remove the requirements for Slip Theory Exams to be conducted during WCC Phase 1.

Introduce a North Sea Airspace Test during the new Flight Safety Module.

Introduce a TO for the conduct of e geopolitical topic during WCC Phase 1.

Remove the TOs referring to C2W and FAOR ops from the WCC Phase 1 syllabus.

Introduce TOs for the theory and practical application of Functional Safety Management.

On the surface quite a large refinement to the current syllabus, especially when the requirement to rewrite a great percentage of the theory to support these changes would also need to be addressed. This review and re-write was not to take 10 months, but was to be carried out in 10 weeks. Much to the amazement of the team members, the whole revision was completed in the allotted time.

Other aspect of training to be taken into consideration were that it was considered AAR training would be better taught on Phase 2. Therefore, the time allocated to AAR training on Phase 1 would be reduced to 6 hours and the bulk of AAR work would be carried out on Phase 2. It was also considered that the CRC Module was not resourced, provided unrealistic training and unnecessarily increased the pressure on students. It was therefore decided to run 3 WCC Phase 1 courses without a CRC module to assess the impact on Phase 2 training. Also, ways of delivering a period of realistic consolidation sorties for students before they progress to Phase 2 were to be explored.

By a judicious reorganisation of the content of the modules, it was found that Waiting Time (the time a student must wait because of a lack of console) could be reduced considerably from 180hrs to 110hrs. The whole of Phase1 could be completed in 21 weeks as opposed to the then current 28 weeks. The obvious advantage of getting the student controller to the CRCs more quickly is obvious but there were even more advantages arising from this latest reorganisation:

The potential to train 28 students per year as opposed to 21

Course converted to target aspect before an October deadline

Greater emphasis on current operations control

Production of a more "useful" student due to experience of Coffee "A" control and F3 v Hawk control

The student would only be confronted by three assessment hurdles as opposed to 5

Only seven practical checks would be carried out instead of the then 14

No artificially difficult CRC Module would be met.

This was indeed a radical change to how controllers had been taught in the past, but it is the firm belief of the whole of the Course Design Team involved in this latest change that the Branch will reap enormous benefits from this latest review. In case this is the final review I list the members of the team below:

Flt Lt Andy Greenwood

Flt Lt Chris Benn

Flt Lt Nick Taylor

Fg Off Stu Gray

Fg Off Kieran O'Sullivan

HIO Tony Pleasant

We were also assisted by a good friend to Fighter Control - Sqn Ldr Paul Roberts of 25 Sqn, RAF Leeming, without whose help certain aspects of the course would have been lacking in authenticity. At least the controllers who come after us will know who to blame.

Although statistics do not necessarily indicate a true picture, I felt a "History" would hardly be complete without an indication of the numbers of students being taught at any given time, for instance:

April 1996 58 students 16 different courses

September 1996 78 students 17 different courses

April 1997 78 students 15 different courses

Currently the School comprises 3 Squadrons, A, B and C and I have attempted to provide a comprehensive breakdown of each squadron's function and establishment, with the aid of point briefs written by the previous Sqn OCs namely, Sqn Ldr Al MacPherson, Sqn Ldr "Wedge" Preston and Sqn Ldr Rick Saunders, (all three having left the School before October 99).


A Sqn's function within the SFC is to train ab-initio students and selected airmen of TG12 to CQ standard in the Weapons and Systems sub-specializations of the Operations Support Branch (Fighter Controller) abbreviated to OSB(FC). "They" are at it again!


Courses. Air Defence Foundation Course (ADFC), Weapons Control Course (WCC) Phases 1 and 2, Identification Offr's Course (IDOC) Phases 1 and 2.

ADFC. Conducted 6 times per yr during TY 97/98 with 8 students per course. During TY 98/99, 6 courses of 10 students will be run.

The course is 6 weeks in length and consists of 20 practical exercises and 62 theory lessons. The students' aptitude for WC and IDO duties are assessed and suitability for further training is decided at a Streaming Board.

The WC aspect of the course was changed in Jan 97 and the percentage of students streamed WC has more than doubled. Collisions interceptions replaced stern intercepts in Jan 97 when 90 sterns were removed from the WC Syllabus; this followed a fairly comprehensive assessment of the necessity to teach the 90 and, despite most instructors being of the opinion that stern intercepts were a powerful vehicle for testing aptitude, it was dropped from the syllabus.

Currently, the course requires 3 instructors of each specialisation. To ccommodate 10 students the course must have 4 of each.

WCC Phase 1. Conducted 5 times per yr during TY 97/98 with 4 students per course. During TY 98/99, 7 courses of 3 students will be run.

Up to 4 courses are in house concurrently. 14 students were in house during early 98 due to recourses. The course lasts 6 mths and is sim-based with appropriate theory. It constitutes Formal Trg for CQ.

This is a new course; design was completed Apr 97 and WCC 1 graduated 2 students on 7 Nov 97; the remaining student is expected to graduate 28 Nov 97. Hopes are high that the pass rate for WCs will improve as a result of the redesign. Presumably the main reason for the change.

To meet the ITT for TY 97/98 of 20 students, 13 WC instructors are required; currently only one HIO post is vacant, recently advertised, at the time of writing the post is still not filled and, as two of the current incumbents are approaching the grand old age of 60, now might be a good time for someone out there who is looking for a second career. To meet the ITT of 30 for TY 98/99, an additional 4 WC instructors are required. The establishment has been agreed, but the posts are all vacant. Lack of experienced instructors is a significant problem. Only OC WCC post is annotated as FA-qualified, but the OC WCC Phase 1 job is extremely demanding with up to 4 courses in house.

WCC Phase 2. Conducted 5 times per year during TY 97/98 under the auspices of SFC Agents at CRCs Buchan and Neatishead, in TY 98/99 this is expected to rise to six. The course lasts 4 mths and is based on live and sim practical work with a small theoretical element. It constitutes Continued Formal Trg to CQ.

Design of Phase 2 WCC was completed in time for WCC 1 students to commence Phase 2 trg on 1 Dec 97. One student will be trained at each CRC initially; a third student, expected to commence Phase 2 in Jan 98, will be trained at Buchan. Since only 3 Phase 2 posts will be manned initially, the capacity of Phase 2 WCC will be severely limited.

IDOC Phase 1. Conducted 5 times per year during training year (TY) R97/98. Although established for 6 students per course, current restraints on sim time restrict the course to a maximum of 4 students. It constitutes Formal Training to CQ. The course consists of a minimum of 31 hours of practical training for each student, and 19.45 hours of theory. Sim time is restricted to mornings only, due to the number of courses needing to use the simulator, and any remedial training must be done in the evenings or, if necessary, a course extension applied for. After successfully completing their IDOC Ph 1 the students then do 3 weeks of MMI training before starting Ph 2.

IDOC Phase 2. Conducted 5 times per yr during TY97/98 under the auspices of SFC Agents at CRCs Buchan and Neatishead.

The course lasts 9 weeks and is based on live practical training with some theory. It constitutes Continued Formal Training to CQ.

2 Instructor posts established at each CRC, but currently only one post at each site filled. Capacity of Phase 2 IDOC, therefore, limited to 4 students without incurring additional waiting time.

Instructors. Currently established for 33 instructors.

25 Instructors at SFC.

6 Instructors at Buchan.

6 Instructors at Neatishead.

RAF Boulmer. OC A Sqn, OC WCC Phase 1, OC IDOC, OC ADFC, 15 WC Instructors, 7 IDO Instructors.

RAF Neatishead. 3 WC Instructors teaching WCC Phase 2; 2 IDO Instructors teaching IDOC Phase 2.

RAF Buchan. At RAF Buchan there are 3 WC Instructors teaching WCC Phase 2; 2 IDO Instructors teaching IDOC Phase 2.

Student Range. Students are drawn from most grades between SAC to Flt Lt, with an occasional Sqn Ldr.

Support Flt (Spt). Spt Flt comprises 40 TG 12 personnel who provide simulator drivers and general simulator support.


ADFC Sim. ADFC Sim hardware replaced mid-97.

ATC Sim. ATC Sim for Phase 1 WCC procured early 97. Software supplied by CATCS RAF Shawbury is an old, well-proven version, specially modified and developed by SFC staff. Hardware has been bought to support new networked version.


The WCC makes heavy demands on sim drivers although drivers are not used for the ATC Module, since Instructors drive the ATC sim.


B Sqn's function within the OSB(FC) Specialisation is to take the competent and turn them into the best.



Conduct all Post Graduate, Advanced, Executive, ADGE Engineer PET, and F&C training. Contribute to No 11/18 Gp's operational mission with radar data and data links.


Courses. Approx 20 different types, up to 80 times a year.

Instructors. 14 instructors spread across 4 units.

RAF Boulmer. OC B Sqn, OC FA/MC Trg, OC TPO Trg, OC DDL Trg with 2 sgt DL instructors and OC TACRAD, supported by 2 x BMT instructors.

RAF Neatishead. One sgt ASOP teaching JAPNMS.

RAF Buchan. One flt lt T92 STT instructor.

RP Portreath. One sgt and one cpl ASOP teaching SSSB.


Student Range. From airmen to air officers.

Ex Prep. Ex Prep Section look after IT and the wargaming facilities.

TACINT. TACINT, an unestablished task, is controlled by OC TACRAD on behalf of the Stn.

- Courses Details. The inter-relationship between the various courses is depicted in this diagram.


AD Cdrs. Conducted 3 times a year, 2½ days duration. Guest lecturers address a max of 10 wg cdr and above students, plus observers. Sqn ldrs attend only by exception. Aim is to bring future and current AD execs up to date with air matters. Flagship course, with high visibility.

CR AD Executives. Conducted 3 times a year, 3 weeks duration. Comprises 3 individual courses conducted concurrently: MC CR; FA CR, and TPO CR.

FA and TPO. Conducted 4 times a year, 3 week courses. Programmed concurrently to make best use of guest speakers and to encourage interaction between specialisations.

CR WC. Conducted 5 times a year. First 2 weeks (of 4) overlap CR IDO course.

CR IDO. Conducted 5 times a year, 2 weeks duration.

IADEX. Conducted as required, 3 weeks duration, including one week of visits.

CR TACRO. Conducted 5 times a year, 2 weeks duration.

Radar Foundation Course. Conducted 4 times a year, one week duration.

T93 STT. Conducted as required, but approx 4 times a year, 2 weeks duration.

DLMC. Conducted 4 times a year, one week duration.

DL Sup. Conducted 6 times a year, 2 weeks duration.

DL Op. Conducted 6 times a year, 5 days duration.

L16 Ind. Conducted 12 times a year, 4 days duration.

L16 Exec. Conducted 4 times a year, 2 days duration.

JAPNMS. To be scheduled.

SSSB. Conducted as required, 3 weeks duration for Operators, 6 days for Managers.

Collective Training Facilities. The Dowding Centre is made available for CAOC collective training

Battle Management Training.

The Battle Management Training (BMT) Section is responsible for maintaining the Dowding Centre and its TACFLOOR. Primary task is completion of a fully Generic TACFLOOR for IADEX use.


Data Links (DL).

The Data Link Ops Section operates from the R3, under the supervision of a sgt, who reports to OC DL Ops/Trg. DL Ops conduct approx 150 E3 missions and 40 maritime DL serials a year and participate in most major exercises and JMCs.


To round off this RAF Boulmer entry and to bring the history completely up to date, currently the School provides training in the following courses:

Ab Initio Training Advanced & Executive Training Specialist
ADFC WC to Combat Ready Data Links Operator
ADFC IDO Module IDO to Combat Ready Data Links Supervisor
IDO Phase 1 Combat Ready Tactical Data Links Manager
IDO Phase 2 Radar Operator Link 16 Executive
WC Phase 1 Fighter Allocator (FA) Link 16 Induction
WC Phase 2 Track Production Officer (TPO) Link 16 Net Managers
Basic ASOp Master Controller (MC) Link 16 JAPNMS

FA to Combat Ready SSSB Operator

TPO to Combat Ready SSSB Supervisor

MC to Combat Ready Radar Foundation

Further Training 1 Type 92 Radar Special-to-type

Further Training 2 Type 93 Radar Special-to-Type

International Air Defence Executives UKADGE Conversion

Air Defence Commanders UKADGE Eng Offs PET

Air Defence Orientation

WC and IDO Refresher

Instructors Courses

Combat Airspace Management
TOTAL - 38

Marconi awards

In 1988 Marconi made available awards for best students in three categories, Systems Officer Training Award, Asop Training Award and Interception Controller Training Award. Below is a list of the winners of these prestigious awards:

Year Systems Award Asop Award Controller Award
1988 Fg Off M J De Polo LACW M Doran Fg Off J Portlock
1989 Plt Off M R Ogden LAC C N Cranshaw Fg Off J R Blake
1990 Fg Off P Maple SAC S Turnbull Fg Off R Daisley
1991 Fg Off R C Box SAC P Billany Fg Off R A Boundy
1992 Fg Off S P Mann SACW A O Bonadie Fg Off M R Ogden
1993 Fg Off A McFarland Not Awarded Flt Lt G J Dick
1994 Fg Off D Drummond Not Awarded Fg Off E Addison
1995 Fg Off M Max LAC T Flynn Plt Off S Gray
1996 Sgt C Gall SAC D Carter Fg Off N J Taylor
1997 Sgt K Bowers LAC D P Hibbard Fg Off S M Christian
1998 Fg Off C Richie SAC M Subrmaniam Flt Lt Webb

Congratulations to all the previous winners and good luck to all future participants. Thanks also to Marconi for making it such an enjoyable ceremony.

What is the current manning of the School? See below:

Wg Cdr Sqn Ldr Flt LT Fg Off WO FS Sgt Cpl Airmen
1 3 33 6 2 5 18 27 46

A total of 153 service personnel and also employed are 12 civilians.


I was delighted to receive an input on the training of airmen from the curator of the Royal Air Force Air Defence Museum situated at RAF Neatishead, a museum worth a visit from anyone interested in the evolvement of both the Fighter Control Branch and the vast improvements in airmen training since the advent of radar. I have received permission from Sqn Ldr Roy Bullers (Retd) to print the article, written for the Museum Newsletter of Apr 99 and, with many thanks to Roy, I am delighted to include it "in toto" below.

Towards the end of 1998 your Editor was challenged to write an article about Clerks (Special Duties), the forerunners of the Fighter Plotters, Air Defence Operators and, later, Aerospace Systems Operators. With the challenge was the comment, "We always hear that controllers do this, controllers do that, but what about the workers?". Forever ready to respond to a challenge, here goes, with acknowledgement to help given by the Air Historical Branch. While this article mainly concerns airmen/airwomen in training, inevitably officer training intrudes into the narrative, as establishments change to meet new job descriptions or the role of the School changes to meet new developments.

The first 5 stations in the RDF Chain Home were planned for Bawdsey, Great Bromley, Canewdon, Dunkirk and Dover. Bawdsey was established as a centre for research work on RDF, together with the equipment to enable Bawdsey to operate as one of the chain of radar stations. Provision was made in the 1936 Air Estimates for a scientific staff of 10 scientific officers and some 26 assistants. In the same year the Army Council nominated a small staff of scientific officers to work with the air Ministry staff at Bawdsey under the overall supervision of Mr Robert Watson-Watt. At a meeting between the Air Ministry civil servants and Mr Watson-Watt letters of reference were agreed, to include the initial arrangements for the Service training organization to be developed to man the radar chain.

In the first Air Defence Exercise in which RDF was used, in 1936, the scientific assistants passed plots from Bawdsey to an improvised operations room at Headquarters Coastal Command and to the 11 Group operations room at RAF Uxbridge. Following the 1936 Exercise, and in recognition of the progress being made with detection by RDF means, the Air Member for Personnel at the Air Ministry was asked to start the training of Service personnel for RDF, and appoint an RAF officer as Commandant RDF Training, and Squadron Leader R G Hart was selected. Initially, it was planned to train 30 airman and 30 civilians on a 3-4 month course at a selected Chain Home station, Dover being the first choice though Bawdsey was eventually selected. A course intake of these numbers would allow the chain Home stations to be manned as they achieved completion, and release the Bawdsey scientific staff of the need to man the equipment, to the detriment of their research. The aim was to train sufficient Service personnel in RDF procedures for each new station, to a 24-hour establishment of 3 NCO supervisors (Wireless Operator Mechanic/WOM standard), 3 WOMs, and 6 Wireless Operators. Notice that there was no RDF trade at this time. On the assumption that 4 RDF stations would be completed during 1937 this programme would require 48 airmen to be trained.

The number of plots produced in the 1937 Air Exercise clearly demonstrated the need for a RDF Filter Centre to sort the plots. A count of the numbers of aircraft in a formation was difficult to establish as this "depended on the experience, not yet sufficiently acquired, by the operator".

The 5-station chain had proved itself capable of prolonged operation during the 1938 Home Defence Air Exercise and plans were laid for an extension of the RDF chain to 20 stations. Training of personnel at Bawdsey was intensified to meet the requirement of the extra 15 stations. About the time of the 1938 Exercise there has been some slight controversy as to the ability of Service personnel as RDF observers and an investigation was set in place to measure the accuracy of the RDF stations and the ability of their operators. An outcome of this operational research (the forerunner of the later operational Research Section) was recognition that Service personnel who had 6 months experience in RDF were ever more competent operators than the scientists who lacked experience on the observer side of RDF operations. To meet the new need the technical establishment at each station was now adjusted to: one Signals Warrant Officer, 3 aircraftsmen Wireless and Electrical Mechanics, 3 corporals and 6 airmen Wireless Operators (Still no RDF trade group). Of these, the aircraftsmen Wireless Operators could be picked from newly trained ex-boy entrants, but the Wireless and Electrical Mechanics needed to be tradesmen of some experience.

In August 1938 the Air Ministry had accepted the responsibility for the recruiting and training of personnel for the Chain Home network, for the mobile ground equipment used by the Army and the RAF, and for the RDF equipment to be used in RAF aircraft.

In October 1938 the new Filter Room in the basement of the headquarters at RAF Bentley Priory took over from the Filter Room at Bawdsey and was manned by Service personnel, both filter staff and plotters. The establishment of filter personnel in response to HQFC letter dated 15 October 1938 authorized the employment of Aircrafthands Group V for filter room duties. It was soon realised that some upgrading of filter room staffs was required. The best of the aircrafthands were constantly being posted away for training in a skilled trade. Despite the situation being reported to the Air Ministry on 3 January 1939, no attempt appears to have been made at that time to assess the degree of intelligence required to do the job adequately. It was 4 months later, on 5 May, that there was urgent action to substitute Clerks Group IV for Aircraftmen Group V in the filter room as a temporary measure. The trade of Clerk (Special Duties) was introduced to cover these and miscellaneous similar duties on 1 August 1940.

As an experiment, 3 Technical Assistants of science degree standard were given a short period of training in the principles of filtering. Despite their inexperience, the tracks that they produced were more accurate than heretofore. From this it was accepted that men of special mental ability were required as filterers. Financial approval for the appointment of pilot officers and flying officers to filterer posts, in lieu of corporals, was given on 19 February 1940, usually from university graduates in scientific of mathematical subjects. Members of the WAAF who had been employed as plotters since 20 September 1939 later filled officer filterer posts.

In early February 1939 the Air Ministry were planning for a Standby Fighter Command Operations Room which could take over in the event of Bentley Priory being put out of action. The GPO favoured Leighton Buzzard in their discussions, as it was the place where the Air Ministry"s central telephone/teleprinter exchange was nearing completion. By July 1939, the standby operations room was ready for occupation, but it soon gained more importance for its secondary role, that of being a training centre for Operations and Filter personnel.

At the outbreak of war the civilian scientists of the Bawdsey Research Station had been renamed as staff of the Air Ministry Research Establishment (AMRE), and moved north to Dundee. This left the operational RDF station at Bawdsey solely manned by RAF personnel. The Base Maintenance Headquarters, until now at Bawdsey, moved on 1 September 1939 to a new headquarters at Carlton Lodge, Leighton Buzzard.

When war was declared on 3 September 1939 the RDF chain connected to the Bentley Priory Filter Room consisted of 18 Chain Home stations, none as yet in "Final" fit. The efficiency of the Filter Room was improved on 7 September by the appointment of Controllers, becoming known as Filter Officers on 20 September 1939. On this date also, the first WAAF watch was on duty at the Bentley Priory Filter Room. From the beginning of the war there had been a shortage of RDF personnel, both for operating and for maintaining the Chain stations. At the end of November 1939 experimental crews of WAAF operators were sent to the Chain Home stations at Poling and Dover. It was considered by January 1940 that they were quite capable of carrying out the work under RAF SNCOs, so further WAAF courses were arranged at Bawdsey, and WAAF operators were subsequently generally introduced on Chain stations. The training of RDF mechanics, also originally at Bawdsey, was transferred to No 2 Radio School at RAF Yatesbury on 18 January 1940.

Not only was the manning of the Home Chain to be considered. By April 1940, the overseas demands for RDF personnel had risen and some 16 Transportable or Mobile RDF Units had been formed and manned for use overseas. As a result, No 60 Group and No 2 Installation Unit were generally below their establishment in personnel and faced an overload of work in their increasing responsibilities.

Successive extensions of the RDF chain called for more personnel to operate it (on 25 April 1940 it had been decided to increase the RDF stations by 8 Chain Home and 15 Chain Home Low). This requirement seriously overloaded the training facilities and the operator"s course had to be shortened to 3 weeks duration.

On 12 June 1940 Yatesbury Radio School opened a training centre for WAAF RDF operators.

On 12 August 1940 the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Fighter Command signalled the Chain Home stations at Dover, Rye, Pevensey and Ventnor (stations which had been attacked by the Luftwaffe) expressing his satisfaction and pride in the behaviour of the WAAF personnel in the face of enemy attack. In his Despatch on the Battle of Britain, Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding comments that the operating personnel of these Chain Home stations which were attacked, and particularly the women, behaved with great courage under threat and actual bombardment.

With the introduction of the rotating beam Ground Controlled Interception (GCI) stations HQFC had taken the initiative as early as September 1940 in asking for a special Chain Home Low maintenance and operating crew to be sent to TRE Worth Matravers to learn the GCI trade. By the beginning of December 1940 the GCI establishment had been decided, and WAAF operators were included, as follows:

a. A senior NCO (radio operator or mechanic).

b. One corporal, one aircraftwoman (radio operator).

c. Three aircraftsmen (radio operator).

d. One aircraftman (radio mechanic).

e. Two aircrafthands (for hand turning the aerials).

Unlike the chain Home stations, which remained in No 60 (Signals) Group, the GCI stations were absorbed operationally and administratively into the organization of the sector to which they were allotted. No 60 Group retained responsibility for the engineering aspects and provided the necessary radar mechanics, while radar operators were chosen from among the Clerks (Special Duties) provided by HQFC, who were responsible for their training in GCI work.

The Controller"s Training Unit moved to RAF Rudloe Manor, Wiltshire, opening there on 1 January 1946, but by 1 January 1947 it had been renamed by HQFC as the School of Control and Reporting. Little information is extant concerning its stay at Rudloe Manor and by February 1948 it was moved to RAF Middle Wallop in Hampshire, where courses started on 1 March 1948. On 16 March 1953 No 288 Squadron was reformed at Middle Wallop with Spitfire LF XVI and Oxfords to provide target aircraft for the training of fighter controllers at Middle Wallop. However, Balliol T2 replaced the Spitfires and Oxfords and remained with the squadron until it was disbanded on 12 September 1957.

A "Friend" of the Museum who travels under the sobriquet of "An Old Un" has a few words to say about the Central Trade Testing Board (CTTB) at RAF Chigwell (of "Birds of a Feather" fame) in 1947.

"The CTTB, commanded by an Air Commodore, was the testing centre for all the RAF. Examiners in all trades were gathered - Sergeant to Warrant Officer. The Sergeants Mess consisted of 85 Warrant Officers, 160 odd Flight Sergeants, 30 odd Sergeants and not many more airmen, an unusual unit. Our Radar Operator Section consisted of 2 Warrant Officers and one Flight Sergeant, with one other Fighter Plotter Warrant Officer serving out his time. At this time the rebuilding of the RAF was underway with many small training schools being established at actual radar stations. Chain Home courses at Bawdsey and Ringstead, Fighter Plotters courses at Bawdsey and Middle Wallop, with occasional courses at Box. All were visited by travelling CTTB examiners to "pass out" and remuster airmen to their trades.

At that time the CTTB was charged with production of 2 new policies. The first to write a new trade structure for the RAF (later known as the 1951 Trade Structure) and to develop and introduce the multiple-choice examination papers. The multiple choice question papers required a great deal of effort to provide a large enough library of questions for examination. As to whether they could be "weighted" for compartmentalising or grouping - the theory being that "given a weighted question library and a composition plan, any one could construct, and mark, an examination paper without the slightest knowledge of the subject!"

The other designated task was to change the face of the RAF Trade Structure (in keeping with the social structures advocated by the government of the time) to a less rigid system whereby any airman could get to the top of his trade by expertise or by leadership qualities.

In the pre-1951 Royal Air Force, airman entry was at Aircraftsman Second Class (AC2). If trained for a trade, passing out levels were:

40% pass to 59.9% = AC2

60% to 79.9% = AC1

80% + = Leading Aircraftsman.

There was no review of marking in the pre-war RAF. Corporals and some early promoted Acting Sergeants were required to pass a Sergeant"s examination prior to confirmation in the promotion. In the Group 1 Trades LACs could apply for Sergeant pilot or Corporal Observer training, if successful, deployment to those categories lasted for a fixed term though in most cases the Corporal Observers followed their trade in between flying duties. Recruitment of direct entry Pilots commenced around about 1937/38. The scheme was further extended to Observer training, when all the Corporal Observers received immediate promotion to Sergeant. Air Gunners had to wait until 1940 before elevation. The Royal Air Force Memorial at Runnymede will show that all early wartime sorties carried airmen Wireless Operators and Air Gunners, just as dead as the other aircrew categories.

The pre-1951 Trade Structure consisted of 5 groups:

Group 1 - The Technical specialists (mostly 3 year apprentice trained) Aircraft - Engine - Radio - Wireless - Electrical Instrument, designated fitters. From these trades advancement could be made to all the aircrew categories. Aircraft Apprentices who excelled in all aspects of training were awarded cadetships to the Royal Air Force College. One exception was StoreKeepers, where advancement to Equipment Officer was possible.

Group 2 - Lesser specialist trades - mostly the operating aspect of the equipment and systems in use. Boy Entrant entries to wireless operating, photographer and armourer.

Group 3 - Trades that were more manual than specialised, ie Cooks, MT, and Catering.

Group 4 - Mostly considered to be a higher grade than 3 - housed all the clerical based trades - Clerks, Clerk Accounting, Clerk Equipment, Store Keepers, Fighter Plotters and R/T Operators.

Group 5 - All the low grade minimal training trades - Police, ACH/GD, RAF Regt, Batmen, Fitter"s Mate and such.

The new trade structure was to re-group trades so that airmen could, by their own efforts, progress through the years to a status within their trade by acquiring qualification even if they would never by considered for promotion as an NCO. Or the Command ladder as it was called, i.e. there would be 2 advancement ladders, one via normal NCO promotion and one via the meritocratic examination achievement of excellence within the trade - so that 2 airman could, after the same length of service, achieve similar status, pay and pension rights. One route to be the normal command route via the NCO ranks and the second via new levels of competence known as Technicians - Junior, Corporal, Sergeant and Chief Technician, with chevrons to be worn inverted to indicate level achieved. The Technician ladder was to be spaced by 3 years and 5 years and achieved by Promotion Examination prior to advancement. The Chief Technician was to wear the chevrons of the Senior Technician surmounted by the badge of the Senior Aircraftsman. Initially there was to be a rank of Master Technician, equating to Warrant rank - but no badges were ever designed - though talk of Royal Arms surrounded by a laurel wreath was rumoured. I think it died a death because of the Master Aircrew rank badge, anyway I never heard of the rank being introduced. Certainly we never wrote a promotion examination for it.

Two new ranks, or levels of airmen rank, both obtained by examination were to be introduced - Junior Technician and Senior Aircraftsman. In the trades previously known as Group 1, and fed by apprentice training, passing out levels would be Jnr Tech and for other trades SAC could be obtained by achieving the requisite marking on passing out.

The grouping of trades into subgroups of the new trade structure, 22 groups in all, would enable airmen/women to join in a lower group. They could then pass educational qualifications (if specified as necessary) then re-qualify in another sub-trade and eventually "collect" the requisite skills to muster in the new aspect of trade grouping. Each trade group had to have a trade at "Advanced Level" known as the "Advanced Trade". It meant that every airman had the chance to attain rank, either Command or Technician, in the Advanced Trade. Technician status could only be attained within the Advanced Trade and Flight Sergeant and Warrant Officer posts would only be established as "Advanced Tradesmen". Subtrades would have rank ceilings established, ie some would level at Corporal, others, or combinations of others, would ceiling at Sergeant.

The Radar Operating Trade Group was designated as Trade Group 12 and the Advance Trade was titled Fighter Plotter. To muster to this trade required not only examined competence but achievement of educational examinations, either GCE, or higher, or Forces Preliminary Certificates in English and General Knowledge (though these were not announced until publication of the introductory Air Ministry Order in 1951. Other trades had different requirements."

Now, back to the main story. During the School"s time at Middle Wallop it was divided into 3 squadrons as follows:

A Squadron. Fighter Controller.

B Squadron. Fighter Plotter.

C Squadron. Radar Supervisor.

With the impending take-over of RAF Middle Wallop by the Army Air Corps more changes in organization were on hand, the School of Control and Reporting was disestablished on 30 September 1957 and split into 3 separate units:

a. The Fighter Control Sqn was transferred to RAF Hope Cove, Salcombe, Devon in October 1957 and retitled the School of Fighter Control.

b. The Radar Supervisor Sqn transferred to RAF Bawdsey in 1958.

c. The Fighter Plotter Sqn remained at Middle Wallop until March 1958 when it became the School of Air Defence at RAF Compton Bassett in Wiltshire.

In 1958 the trades of Fighter Plotter and Radar Operator were merged into a new Group 12 trade of Air Defence Operator (ADO), this was further divided into ADO 1 and ADO 2. WHEN WAS THIS CHANGED?

RAF Bawdsey was reduced to care and maintenance status on 28 Nov 74 and that same month the first course, Basic ASOp 154 commenced at RAF West Drayton. Prospective members of TG12 attended an eight week course which had a primary aim of preparing ab-initio students for their prospective career in the world of Air Defence. Subjects covered included, the basic concepts of Air Defence, telephone procedures, uses of IFF/SSR, and Georef and Lat and Long grid systems. The training was geared to give a firm foundation in all matters of an air defence nature.

Alongside the theory, practical training was given to cover the following aspects:

Set-up of the plan position indicator (PPI) radarscope.

Interpretation of the PPI picture.

Tote operation, as operations rooms depended heavily on Perspex totes to display information to the users, a great degree of emphasis was placed on the student's ability to plot aircraft and to write the information backwards.

All practical training was given in the Practical Training Centre (PTC), a large room within the Air Defence Data Centre (ADDC) within the L1 building. The vigilance of the instructors ensured that all students were given valuable experience of working under pressure.

After 12 years and more than 150 courses, the need for a purpose built and centralised training establishment led to the building of the School of Fighter Control at RAF Boulmer and, logically, the Basic ASOp Course was established within the School and in June 1990 course 306 commenced.

One of the main problems in the training of TG 12 personnel has always been that different units were equipped with different types of equipment so it was always necessary to train personnel local on the consoles, totes etc which were in use at that station. The advent of the Universal Console (UC) removed the need for training on diverse consoles when airmen/women were posted between units. In Sep 90 the first course incorporating the use of the UC was extended to 12 weeks and this removed the need for local training at the CRCs. The days of Perspex totes are now long past, but the requirement to write backwards has been replaced by the need for more technical skills such as keyboard techniques for inputting data to the computer. The training at Boulmer has evolved to reflect these changes; more emphasis is now placed on the RAF as an expeditionary force. Students are taught the purpose and need for rapidly transportable radars and, during the rewrite of the syllabus during 1999, much more prominence was given to the understanding of the requirement for "Out of Area Operations".

Since the training of Trade Group 12 personnel was moved to RAF Boulmer to this time of writing (Aug 99) over 50 courses have been completed and over 450 airmen and airwomen have successfully completed the course. The pass rate stands at over 85% and is testament to the professional attitude and dedication of the current staff that comprise 1 FS, 1 Sgt and 6 JNCOs.

During the financial year 00/01 it is anticipated that 108 students will complete the course, with that, and the changes in syllabus being addressed, the immediate future for the ASOp instructors appears to be an exciting and challenging one.

Compton Bassett Mar 1958 - 1960?

RAF Bawdsey 1964? - 1974

RAF West Drayton - 28 Nov 74 - Jun90

RAF Boulmer Jun 90 - ?

When did ADOs become Aero Space Systems Operators? 1972 ??

Continue to the next chapter ......