A400M Atlas C.1 and C-130J Hercules crews of the Air Mobility
Force, based at RAF Brize Norton, have been working with
Tactical Air Traffic Controllers as they hone their
Natural Surface Operations (NSO) skill set.
The landing strip for the aircraft was Pembrey Sands beach, in Wales. To make things even more challenging, the training sorties required crews to fly at night, using Night Vision Goggles as they conducted ‘touch and go’ landings over several hours.
Wing Commander Anderson, Officer Commanding No. XXIV Squadron, spoke about the importance of conducting NSOs, saying:
“The RAF’s Air Mobility Force need to be able to go where others cannot. This can mean landing on unprepared or natural surfaces on operations. We train for this by flying to and from beaches and grass strips in the UK, so that we are ready to deploy when we are called upon. Once we are activated, this can often mean flying in congested airspace with multiple aircraft requiring the same landing area, so the opportunity to exercise with two or more aircraft in the visual circuit for a natural surface in the UK is fantastic training.”
Wing Commander Anderson
Officer Commanding Number XXIV Squadron
The C-130J was piloted by members of No. 47 Squadron under the tutelage of a No. XXIV Squadron Qualified Flying Instructor. For the Atlas it was a Squadron first, well a joint squadron first with a mixed Nos.30 and LXX Squadron crew conducting NSOs together at night for the very first time.
Wing Commander Patton, Officer Commanding No. 30 Squadron, said:
“The ability to operate from natural surfaces is a vital skill set for our crews that requires regular practice if we are to remain sharp. This skill is critical to getting people and equipment to, and from, locations closest to the point of need and regularly comes to the fore in times of crisis. It was therefore great to work alongside our C-130J partners, emphasising our ability to operate together in dynamic environments.”
Wing Commander Patton
Officer Commanding No. 30 Squadron
Along with keeping good communication with the Air Traffic Controllers on the ground, the crews of each aircraft also deconflicted with one another ensuring a safe and successful training serial was completed, and key currencies gained by all who were operating.
Natural Surface Operations are a key capability of the Air Mobility fleet, vastly extending the variety of locations the aircraft can operate in, without being restricted to prepared runways.
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