5(AC) Squadron One Door Closes, Another One Opens
Now don’t let the title confuse you, the Sentinel fleet is not slowing down anytime soon. In fact it is fair to say that they are picking up the pace somewhat. As the curtain comes down on Operation Herrick, the Squadron can be very proud of its achievements.
It was way back in November 2008 when Sentinel first flew on Herrick, and integrating a relatively new aircraft into an Operation which had already been going on for four years raised certain challenges. After six years and over 1400 sorties flown those aforementioned challenges are a distant memory as the people that have come and gone from the Squadron have shed blood, sweat and tears (only one of the those literally I think!) to make the Sentinel a real mainstay in Afghanistan.
Well, as the reader I’m sure you are more than impressed with the facts and figures achieved by 5(AC) Squadron out in Herrick but wait one moment… the Squadron also managed over 1300 sorties during the Herrick period in the UK to maintain a high level in training and readiness in support of not only Operation Herrick but any other operation that the Squadron should be tasked to support.
They say that prior preparation prevents poor performance and this was never truer than the emergence of Operation Ellamy in Libya in which the Squadron were involved between March and October 2011.
Running two Operations at the same time certainly tested everybody’s mettle, a test which everybody passed with flying colours. This stood the Squadron in good stead for when they were tasked for Operation Newcombe in Mali in 2013 and Operation Turus, Nigeria in early 2014.
Well, the final Herrick flight landed in November 2014 and the jets were returned to the UK. They had definitely put in a good shift over the last six years but literally the dust did not have time to settle!
No sooner had the troops packed away their worn shorts and t-shirts, it was time for breaking out the woolly jumpers, big coats and some questionable headwear for Exercise Tartan Flag in Lossiemouth, Scotland.
The avid reader will know that Tartan Flag is a specific work-up ready for Exercise Red Flag which is the US-run major exercise in Nevada. Tartan Flag, this time around was predominantly being run by the Typhoon fleet who kindly invited the Sentinel along for their own work-up.
Sentinel, the finest “fat jet” in the RAF (I’m not biased… honest!) was ready to rock but sometimes things don’t go exactly to plan.
Despite the 5(AC) Squadron engineers’ best efforts we just seem to be able to get off the ground both metaphorically and literally. Now the engineers on 5(AC) Squadron don’t like taking no for an answer so it was to their credit that they got the jets serviceable.
However, I did mention that this exercise was in Scotland and the weather is changeable up there to say the least. After all the successful planning, movement of personnel, stores and general effort that had gone in to the exercise… the worst weather of the year arrived on Lossiemouth’s doorstep. I think the saying goes…you can pack a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather!
Another hurdle for the guys but this one you can’t get over, you just have to wait for it to get out of the way. I know you are on the edge of your seat now wondering did they actually fly?
Well, against all the odds with a bit of luck and some hard work from all involved the jets were successfully launched. Not the ideal and the smoothest workup to the Red Flag Exercise but achieved in the end.
Thankfully, post stresses and strains of the Tartan Flag it was time for a little bit of Christmas Leave for the Squadron, which took the edge off a little. Into the New Year and the Squadron are back up to full pace with more training and preparation ready for the Red flag Exercise commencing mid-January.
Considering it was a just a few short months ago that the main effort was a few time zones east of Waddington, and now 5(AC) Squadron are ready in all respects for such a major exercise a good few hours the other way, is testimony to the hard work and effort of all Squadron personnel.