Visit to RAF Spadeadam

Fri, Jun 24th 2011 at 12:00 am - 2:00 am

Rotary visits RAF Spadeadam-June 2011

In June, seventeen Rotarians and guests enjoyed a supersonic visit to RAF Spadeadam, a training establishment for fast jet and helicopter pilots. The Unit is located well off the beaten track and extends to 9,600 acres including peat bog sites of special scientific interest. It quickly turned out that low-flying jets were not the only flying hazard ; swarms of midges quickly showed great interest in the visitors.  We know now that Rotarians can be divided into two broad groups; those that have the foresight to take Jungle Formula to Spadeadam, and everyone else who didn't.  So well done and thanks to David Harrison.

Latin scholars on the bus nodded sagely at the Unit motto, "Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum" which means "If you seek peace, prepare for war." And that describes exactly the activity undertaken on the site. RAF Spadeadam is the only facility in Europe where aircrews can practise manoeuvres and tactics against a variety of threats and targets that they face in contemporary warfare. The fascinating facility attracts aircraft from the RAF, Army, Navy and NATO Forces. The survival of aircrews over Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, and the soldiers on the ground who depend on air support are affected by the training provided here.

Officer in Charge, Wing Commander Graham Davis was extremely generous with his time which added enormously to the quality of the trip. We were taken around the site to see simulated threat radars  that provide a hostile air environment in which aircrews can hone their skills. The current radar threats comprise various surface-to-air missile and gun-related radars. Pilots are able to download their performance at their home bases and this is where the learning takes place. In a real situation would they have survived? What would they do differently next time?

We visited the high-tech control room where controllers plan the training scenarios and control the airspace in an area much wider than the site itself. In summary, we learned that Spadeadam is a mission critical establishment for experienced pilots and we all felt extremely privileged to have been there and to have everything explained in detail by the Wing Commander.

So all in all, the meal at Gilsland Spa Hotel, the banter on the bus together with the superb insight into a world unfamiliar to most of us, this was a great day out. Special thanks go to Alex Buchan and David Dixon for the organisation and to John Shorter for collecting and driving the bus.

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